2023 WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
- Wednesday, February 22 – Saturday, February 25, 2023
- Pharr, TX
- Defending Champions:
- Women: Northern Arizona (9x)
- Men: UNLV (2x)
- Championship Central
- Live Results
The Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Championships kicked off last night in Pharr, Texas. Last week, SwimSwam picked the Northern Arizona women and UNLV men to claim the conference titles in our 2023 WAC Fan Guide, both of whom were last year’s champions. Night one of the meet featured the 200 medley relay and 800 freestyle relay. Divers also competed, with the men diving on the 1-meter and the women on the 3-meter.
The Grand Canyon women opened the meet strong, setting a program and conference record in the 200-medley relay. The team of Briana Rittenbach, Raphaela Nakashima, Paula Martinez Moreno, and Emily Muteti combined to shave two-tenths of a second off of the previous conference record, finishing in 1:39.13. The record was previously held by San Jose State, set in back in 2012.
Outside of Grand Canyon’s performance in the event, Northern Arizona’s relay was disqualified. In a meet that could come to a narrow margin on the final day, the disqualification could be costly for the Lumberjacks as GCU looks to end their nine-year winning streak.
Joining GCU in setting a conference record on the day was California Baptist’s Gael Jiminez-Mestes on the 1-meter diving board. Jiminez-Mestes WAS over 30 points above the previous record, scoring 389.40. He was followed by teammate Evan Honer, who took silver.
Only a freshman, Jiminez-Mestes already boasts national-level experience. Representing Mexico, he has finished as high as 6th at the World Junior Diving Championships.
In the men’s 200 medley relay it was the UNLV men who came out on top, edging out Grand Canyon for gold with a time of 1:24.85.
The Rebel’s relay featured a key leg from Reece Hemmens, who was the only swimmer under 19.0 on the freestyle leg of the race. Hemmens enters the meet as the fourth fastest performer in the conference this season in the 50 free, having been 19.82 at the Minnesota Invite last fall.
Hemmens would later play a key role in UNLV’s 800 free relay, as he anchored the team to gold. Entering the water almost a second behind Air Force anchor James Winterfield, he split 1:35.20 as the Rebels claimed their second gold of the night. The team finished in 6:22.26.
Air Force was a close second in 6:22.67, with Wen Zhang having led off in a blistering 1:31.62, undercutting his personal best and program record of 1:31.99 set at the Art Adamson Invite to move him up into fourth in the NCAA this season.
Men’s 200 Free NCAA Rankings, 2022-23
- Jack Dahlgren (UMIZ), 1:31.17
- Charlie Hawke (BAMA), 1:31.20
- Grant House (ASU), 1:31.51
- Wen Zhang (AF), 1:31.62
- Luke Miller (NCS), 1:31.87
While they finished well short of the conference record set by SMU in 2003, the Grand Canyon women picked up their second relay title on night one in the 800 free relay. Maria Brunlehner, Maria Chatzi, Krisalyn Henderson, and Aleksandra Wegrznowska combined to set a new GCU program record with a time of 7:16.69. That swim in nearly a full second faster than the time they swam a year ago to win the title. Brunlehner, Chatzi, and Wegrznowska were all members of that relay as well.
In a close battle on the women’s 3-meter board, freshman Maggie Wesche claimed Northern Arizona’s first gold medal of the meet over GCU’s Abigail Erickson. Wesche finished with a score of 288.30, while Erickson was just behind her with 285.80.
Women’s Team Scores – Thru Day 1
- Northern Arizona – 133
- Grand Canyon – 98
- New Mexico State – 73
- Idaho – 65
- Utah Tech – 64
Men’s Team Scores – Thru Day 1
- UNLV – 102
- Air Force – 95
- Grand Canyon – 92
- California Baptist – 91
- Wyoming – 69