Flames To Play Host to First Ever Liberty Invitational

by SwimSwam 0

November 15th, 2018 College, NCAA Division I Mid-Major

Courtesy: Liberty Athletics

Liberty will host an in-season swimming & diving invitational for the first time in program history, hosting the Liberty Invitational, Friday through Sunday at Liberty Natatorium.

The Lady Flames have competed in a mid-season invitational during this corresponding weekend in every year of program history. The last three years, Liberty competed at the Frank Elm Invitational in Piscataway, N.J.

So far this season, Liberty is a perfect 8-0 in dual meets, including CCSA wins over Campbell and Gardner-Webb and victories over non-conference foes BYU, James Madison, Marshall (twice), New Mexico State and Old Dominion.

This weekend’s invitational features five women’s swimming & diving teams, including Liberty, 2018 CAA champion James Madison, 2018 Patriot League and ECAC champion Navy, Campbell and Georgia Southern.

The meet will help the teams preview the format for their conference meets, as there will be morning prelims at 10 a.m. each day and evening finals starting at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Liberty Natatorium will host the 2019 CCSA Swimming & Diving Championships, Feb. 20-23.

Liberty’s CCSA Weekly Honorees (2018-19)
CCSA Swimmer of the Week – Fr. Gianni Pitto (Oct. 2, 2018); R-So. Mikayla Herich (Oct. 31, 2018)

CCSA Diver of the Week – Fr. Olivia Robinson (Oct. 31, 2018); Fr. Lauren Chennault (Nov. 13, 2018)

This is the second time in program history that two different Liberty divers have earned CCSA Diver of the Week in the same season. The first was 2015-16, when both Brooke Fox and Courtney Fox were named Diver of the Week.

Liberty has the top performances in the CCSA this season in the following events:
Platform diving (5) – 198.37 (Olivia Robinson)
50 freestyle – 23.27 (Colleen Donlin)
200 freestyle – 1:52.03 (Emily Zimcosky)
500 freestyle – 5:01.71 (Emily Manly)
1000 freestyle – 10:22.80 (Mikayla Herich)
100 backstroke – 55.42 (Brittany Weiss)
200 backstroke – 1:59.88 (Payton Keiner)
100 breaststroke – 1:03.72 (Gianni Pitto)
200 butterfly – 2:02.00 (Alicia Finnigan)
200 IM – 2:05.17 (Mikayla Herich)
400 IM – 4:25.50 (Mikayla Herich)

Team Notes
• Liberty earned a 251-200 victory in a two-day meet at Marshall last weekend. The Lady Flames have now won 16 dual meets in a row, dating back to the Gardner-Webb Tri Meet on Oct. 27, 2017.

• The Lady Flames have won the three-meter diving event each of the last three times it has been contested. These are the first three diving victories in program history.

• Liberty was impressive in its home debut, sweeping BYU, Gardner-Webb and Old Dominion during the All-American Celebration Meet, Oct. 26-27 at the Liberty Natatorium. It marked the first time in Liberty Athletics history to host BYU in any sport.

• Liberty has finished second at the CCSA Swimming & Diving Championships six times in the last seven years, with its lone CCSA title to date coming in 2014.

• Ninth-year Head Coach Jake Shellenberger has led the Lady Flames from the program’s inception. He has posted a 92-30 dual-meet record, twice being named CCSA Women’s Swimming Coach of the Year. His teams have gone 49-14 all-time against CCSA competition.

• Liberty has added its largest incoming class since the first year of the program, bringing in 14 new student-athletes (10 swimmers, four divers). This includes 11 freshmen, along with transfers Mikayla Herich (Ohio), Emily Zimcosky (Ohio) and Arielle Arnett (Oakland).

• Five Lady Flames earned CSCAA Scholar All-America honors last season. Alicia Finnigan and Payton Keiner were named to the first team, while Hannah Baker, Kiah Francis and Brittany Weiss received honorable mention.

• Eight current Lady Flames have posted CCSA podium finishes in their career, led by Alicia Finnigan with seven. Hannah Baker has earned three top-three finishes, while Brittany Weiss and Payton Keiner have two podium finishes each. Lindsey Cohee, Colleen Donlin, Kiah Francis and Emily Manly have each posted one podium finish.

Student-Athlete Notes
• Freshman Lauren Chennault earned victory in three-meter diving at Marshall last Saturday. Her score of 287.55 set a new program record and also earned her a spot at the 2019 NCAA Zone Diving Meet. She scored 258.38 in one-meter diving, putting her second on Liberty’s all-time top 10 in the event.

• Freshman Olivia Robinson won the three-meter diving event at the All-American Celebration Meet, the first Lady Flame to win a diving event at a dual meet. She set program records at the time in three-meter (281.25) and platform (198.37) at that meet, and earned an NCAA Zone Qualifying score in three-meter. She holds the program record in one-meter diving record (Zone-Qualifying 265.89) and platform diving.

• Redshirt sophomore Mikayla Herich won the 200 IM (2:05.17) and 400 IM (4:25.50) at the All-American Celebration Meet. Both of those swims, in addition to her 1000 freestyle (10:22.80), are all the top times in those respective events in the CCSA so far this season.

• Freshman Gianni Pitto has won an impressive 12 individual events so far this season, winning the 100 breaststroke five times, the 200 breaststroke four times and claiming the 400 IM three times.

• Junior Brittany Weiss won the 100 backstroke in 11 straight meets before placing second at the All-American Celebration meet with a season-best time of 55.42.

• Junior Colleen Donlin has won the 50 freestyle in each of Liberty’s last seven dual meets, a streak that started on Jan. 20, 2018.

• Defending CCSA Women’s Swimmer of the Year Alicia Finnigan has won the 200 fly in all four traditional dual meets this season. Finnigan is second on the team with nine individual-event victories this season.

• Sophomore Payton Keiner swam 1:59.88 in the 200 backstroke at the All-American Celebration Meet, becoming the first Liberty swimmer to break 2:00 in the 200 back in a regular-season meet.

• Keiner returns after earning 2018 Most Outstanding Freshman of the CCSA Meet honors. She won the 200 back and finished second in the 100 back at the CCSA Championships, and went on to compete in both events at the NCAA national meet. She holds the CCSA record in the 200 back (1:53.68).

• Three Liberty newcomers, transfer Mikayla Herich (1000 free) and freshmen Gianni Pitto (100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke, 400 IM) and Emma Hazel (200 back) won in their Liberty debut at Campbell. Fellow newcomers, transfers Emily Zimcosky (Ohio) and Arielle Arnett (Oakland), earned their first victories as Lady Flames at New Mexico State.

• Senior Alicia Finnigan was named the NCAA ELITE 90 Award winner for having the top GPA at the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships. Finnigan also earned Google Cloud At-Large Academic All-America second team honors.

• Finnigan, the 2018 CCSA Women’s Swimmer of the Year, won the 200 fly at the CCSA Championships for the second year in a row before making her second straight appearance at the NCAA Championships.

• Weiss repeated as CCSA champion in the 100 back last season, winning in program-record 52.81. She was named the 2017 Most Outstanding Freshman of the CCSA Meet.

• Sophomore Kiah Francis set the program 400 IM record at 4:18.70, taking second in the event at the CCSA meet.

Opponent Highlights
• James Madison won the 2018 CAA Women’s Swimming & Diving Championship, its first since 2012. The Dukes scored 656 points at the conference meet, and sophomore Hope Byrum was named the Most Outstanding Diver of the Meet. JMU returns Byrum and Emily Gross, who was the 2018 CAA Rookie Diver of the Year.

• Navy won its seventh straight Patriot League Swimming & Diving Championship in 2018, led by two-time Patriot League Swimmer of the Year, Lauren Barber. Current Mids who won individual events at last year’s conference meet are Barber, Jamie Miller (200 back), Delaney Walz (200 fly) and Meghan Gerdes (three-meter diving).

• Campbell finished sixth at the 2018 CCSA Swimming & Diving Championships, scoring 759 points. Megan Everritt (50 back, 100 back), Taylor McMinn (100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke), Maddie Baiotto (100 fly) and Madison Scott (200 fly) all return as Campbell program record holders.

• Georgia Southern placed fourth at the 2018 CCSA Swimming & Diving Championships, scoring 832 points to trail only FGCU, Liberty and Gardner-Webb. Current GSU senior Bre Stuart is the Eagles’ program record holder in the 200 IM.

Order of Events
Nov. 16, 2018 – 10 a.m. prelims, 6 p.m. finals
200 Freestyle Relay
500 Freestyle
200 IM
50 Freestyle
3-Meter Diving
200 Medley Relay

Nov. 17, 2018 – 10 a.m. prelims, 6 p.m. finals
200 Medley Relay
10-minute break
100 Butterfly
400 IM
200 Freestyle
100 Breaststroke
100 Backstroke
800 Freestyle Relay

Nov. 18, 2018 – 10 a.m. prelims, 5 p.m. finals
1650 Freestyle
200 Backstroke
100 Freestyle
200 Breaststroke
200 Butterfly
Platform Diving
400 Freestyle Relay

Up Next
Lady Flames who have attained qualifying marks will compete in the USA Swimming Winter National Championships, held in Greensboro, N.C. from Nov. 28 through Dec. 1.

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