Bowling Green, Ky. — The Western Kentucky University men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs will be competing in the Sun Belt Conference Championships beginning Thursday and continuing through Saturday.
The Hilltoppers will be shooting for their fourth straight SBC title while the women will challenge for their sixth Sun Belt Championship overall in just eight years of competing in the league.
The men finished the season 8-1 in dual-meet competition with their only blemish being a loss to Louisville. The Hilltoppers are currently ranked No. 4 by CollegeSwimming.com in the Mid-Major poll, less than four points behind No. 2 Princeton. The Lady Toppers wrapped up the 2007-08 regular season campaign with a 7-2 record and a No. 6 ranking in the same poll, and are less than one point from No. 3 Columbia. Harvard is the top team in both the men’s and women’s polls.
“With the new format that the SBC decided to implement this year, it will be a difficult task for the Toppers to win their fourth consecutive title,” head coach Bruce Marchionda said. “With the addition of four Mid American schools taking away spots and points in the finals, it will not take much depth to win the title. We have won the last three titles with our depth, which may be neutralized with the extra teams being present.”
WKU will be led by sophomore Sean Penhale, who has been awarded three Sun Belt Conference Swimmer-of-the-Week honors this season. Penhale has broken over 10 records this year, and he owns two school records and four Bill Powell Natatorium records.
Diver Peyton Thomas has collected two SBC Diver-of-the-Week awards and holds the top scores in the one-meter and three-meter competitions for the Toppers this season.
Francis Gilmore will lead the charge in the backstroke. The senior is second all-time in WKU history for his times in the 100 (49.50) and the 200 Back (1:47.32).
“The women’s meet will be a real battle between Denver, FAU, and WKU,” Marchionda said. “I truly believe that it will be the closest finish in five years. Hopefully, with some determination and luck we can bring home the title.”
The Lady Toppers will aim for the title with Claire Donahue taking command of the Butterfly. Donahue broke school records in both the 100 (55.09) and 200 (2:03.92) Fly this year as a freshman.
Emily Waits holds the best score for WKU this season in the one-meter dive, tallying 254.35 points. Erica Wilson is tops in the three-meter event this year with a 258.75 score against Southern Illinois in late January.
Events run all day Thursday-Saturday with warm-ups beginning each day at 8 a.m. (CST), morning prelims start at 10:30 a.m., finals in diving are at 1:30 p.m., and swimming finals begin at 6 p.m on Thursday and Friday and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Thursday’s finals will include the men’s and women’s 200-yard Free Relay and 400 Medley Relay, 50 and 500 Free, 200 Individual Medley and the one-meter dive for the men and the three-meter for the women. The action on Friday consists of a finals in the women’s one-meter dive, men’s and women’s 200 Medley Relay and the 800 Free Relay, 400 IM, 100 Fly, 200 Free, 100 Breast and 100 Back. Concluding the event on Saturday, the finals include the men’s three-meter dive, the men’s and women’s 100 and 1650 Free, 200 Back, 200 Breast and 200 Fly.