Cougars shooting for sixth straight title
PROVO -- The Cougar swimmers will look to continue to be the only team to have won the Mountain West Conference Championships since the formation of the MWC. The men and women will go for a sixth straight championship Wednesday through Saturday in Oklahoma City.
On paper the Cougar men appear strong heading into the weekend's competition. The men are particularly deep in the sprint free, fly, 100 back and breast strokes. BYU senior Kenny Carpenter and sophomore Mark Chay lead the Cougars in the MWC rankings.
Carpenter ranks third in both the 50 and 200 free, fourth in the 200 fly and second in the 100 fly. The native of California also added a new addition to his family after his wife gave birth last week.
Chay has also swam well for the Cougars all year. The sophomore is first in the MWC in the 200 IM, 100 back and second in the 200 free. In one of the gutsiest moments of the season for the Cougars the native of Singapore re-injured a sprained ankle against the Utes in the final meet of the season, but still managed a top finish in the 500 free. An interesting storyline in this year's championships will be how Chay's ankle will fair during competition.
The men look particularly strong in the relays and are currently ranked in the top two of all relays but one, where they are ranked third in the 400 medley relay.
The diving teams for both squads will also be a big contributor of the Cougar's success in Oklahoma. The men can expect a strong showing from senior Scott Randall who has been on the heels of MWC top diver Sterling Richard (Utah) all year. On the women's side, freshmen Angela Nelson and junior Aubrey Low have been battling all year for the top spots in all of the competitions for BYU.
Both coaches are looking forward to what their teams can do with rest and with faster skin suits. The MWC Championships are the focal point for women's head coach Stan Crump and he feels his team is as tough as anyone else in the conference.
"If we show up and swim well," Crump said, "we'll be hard to beat."
The women will be fielding one of the youngest teams in the conference with nine of the 16 swimmers being freshmen. Crump said that it will be interesting to see how the freshmen handle the pressure and the competitiveness of the championships.
"I think if teams are going to get us," Crump said, "this is the year to get us."
The women don't appear as strong as the men on paper but know with rest and faster suits the team will be capable of strong times.
The Cougars lead the MWC in the 200 breast due to the strokes of freshman Jamie Bloom. The women will also look for strong swims from sophomores Brittany Davis, Hannah Palmer and seinors Heidi McMillan and Carolyn Wigginton.
The last time McMillan competed in the MWC championships she placed first in the 50 free back in 2002. The California native has since returned home from a mission, gotten married and will look to make her final championships a successful one.
As a team the women were able to place first in six events at last year's competition and have placed first since the inception of the MWC in the 1999-2000 season.
For both teams a sixth straight MWC championship would mean one of the winningest teams in all of BYU athletic program history. The Cougars would also remain as the only team to take home the MWC championship since the formation of the conference. The competition will begin Wednesday night and continue on through Saturday.