2023 WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
- Wednesday, February 22 – Saturday, February 25, 2023
- Pharr, TX
- Defending Champions:
- Women: Northern Arizona (9x)
- Men: UNLV (2x)
- Live Results
- Championship Central
The final day of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Championships wrapped up on Saturday. Athletes took to the pool to compete in the 200 back, 200 breast, 200 fly, 100 free, and 400 free relay. In diving, the men finished off their meet by competing on the 10-meter platform.
After claiming the 100 back title earlier in the meet, Panos Bolanos of UNLV completed the backstroke sweep, winning the 200 back. His time of 1:40.64 not only won the event, but set the WAC and meet record. The record was previously held by Mark Nikolaev of GCU, set in 2018.
Bolano’s swim also marks his first best time in the event in two years. Entering the meet, his lifetime best was 1:41.08, swum at the 2020 WAC Championships.
Joining Bolanos in setting a conference record on the day was Grand Canyon’s Jonathan Rom in the 200 breast. Winning the race by nearly two second, Rom dipped below both the conference and meet records, touching in 1:53.90. He was followed by defending champion and teammate Jonathan Reiter, who took second in 1:55.54.
In Rom’s first season of short courses yards competition, he has seen a rapid improvement. After not breaking 2:00 until December, he has dropped over nine seconds since his first swim.
Picking up her third gold of the meet was GCU sophomore Maria Brunlehner. After winning the 100 breast and 200 IM, she claimed gold in the 100 free, finishing with a time of 48.81. She was the only woman to finish under 49.0 in the event.
On the men’s side it was Remi Fabiani who picked up his second title, winning the 100 free for California Baptist. In a close battle with 200 free conference record holder Wen Zhang, Fabiani came out on top, touching in 42.21.
With his swim, Fabiani not only set the program record, but broke the longest-standing championship meet record as well. Prior to this week, the meet record was 42.68, set by Lars Frolander of Southern Methodist in 1997.
Making history on the platform was CBU’s Gael Jiminez-Mestes. Only a freshman, Jiminez became just the second diver in conference history to sweep the diving events at a WAC Championships. The only other diver to perform the feat was Jiminez’s teammate, Evan Honer, who took second in the event this year.
With last year’s conference champion, Robyn Edwards, having transferred to Connecticut this season, the door was opened for Utah Tech’s Pia Murray to pick up her third conference title of the week in the 200 back. The junior transfer finished just off of her lifetime best in the event, touching in 1:54.96.
Murray was nearly unstoppable in her first season since leaving Florida State, winning three individual and two relays gold medals across her first WAC Championships. She claimed gold in the 100 fly, 100 back, and 200 back and was a part of Utah Tech’s winning 200 medley and 400 medley relays.
Behind Murray, the silver medal went to teammate Ally Boynton. Boynton was nearly five seconds slower in the event a year ago, only qualifying for the C-final. The B-final this year was won by last year’s silver medalist Maude Boily-Dufour. Boily-Dufour finished in 2:00.39.
Northern Arizona had a pair of women claim back-to-back titles, with Haley Mayhew winning the 200 breast and Maddy Rey taking the 200 fly. In the breast, Mayhey won her second straight gold in 2:12.95 while Rey’s 200 fly title came in 1:58.92.
Grand Canyon closed out the women’s meet with gold in the 400 free relay. The team of Emily Muteti, Maria Chatzi, Kaity Carr, and Brunlehner combined to finish in 3:19.16.
On the men’s side, it was UNLV who won the 400 free relay, successfully sweeping all five relays for the first time since 2015. The team of George Ratiu, Bolanos, Kris Matuszewski, and Reece Hemmens combined to finish just short of the conference record from a year ago, touching in 2:51.02
After winning the 500 free earlier in the meet, Northern Arizona sophomore Casey Craffey picked up her second gold in the 1650 free. Leading by nearly a full 50 yards, Craffey won the gold in 16:20.50. She was joined as 1650 champion Mark Kovacsics, a CBU freshman. Kovacsics also led by nearly 20 seconds, touching in 15:01.05 for the win.
For the tenth straight year, the Northern Arizona women came out on top, finishing with a score of 835. The program now boasts the longest win streak in conference history, moving past Sothern Methodist who won every year from 1997 until 2005. Their team score was the highest in program history and is the highest in the conference since Boise State finished with the same score in 2011.
On the men’s side, UNLV claimed their third straight title. The last time the Rebels claimed three conference championships in a row was during their transition from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation to the WAC between 2013 and 2015. Since joining the WAC in 2013 the program has won the conference championships on five different occasions.
Women’s Team Scores
- Northern Arizona – 835
- Grand Canyon – 605
- Northern Colorado – 493
- Utah Tech – 462
- New Mexico State – 459
Men’s Team Scores
- UNLV – 838
- Grand Canyon – 627.5
- California Baptist – 565
- Wyoming – 545.5
- Air Force – 542