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by Jacob Pickle

Contrary to what the late, great John Denver sang years ago, West Virginia wasn’t “almost heaven” for the Villanova men’s and women’s swimming & diving teams this past weekend in the West Virginia Invitational at the WVU Natatorium.  Although both squads had their share of stellar individual performances against the talented likes of West Virginia, Cincinnati and James Madison, both struggled to put together complete team efforts as the men took third and the women finished fourth in the competition.

The women’s team managed eight top-three finishes, the highlight of which was a victory in the 800-meter freestyle on Saturday afternoon. The team, consisting of juniors Katrin Heider and Sara Jurek, sophomore Kaisla Kollanus and freshman Jessica Randolph, put together an impressive overall performance with a winning time of 7:35.60.  The ’Cats also managed another solid showing in the 200-meter freestyle relay as a team of Heider, Jurek, Kollanus and sophomore Fiona Hardie took third place in 1:28.10. The team’s younger swimmers contributed great efforts.  The women’s squad ended day one in third place with a total score of 860 thanks to a third-place finish in the 1000-meter freestyle by freshman Emily Mayo, a fourth-place finish in the 200-meter backstroke by freshman Megan Conrad and a fourth-place finish by Kollanus in the 100-meter freestyle.

The theme of talented underclassmen continued on the second day.  Hardie was able to snag a third place finish in the 100 -meter butterfly while Randolph finished second in the 400-meter individual medley and Heider took second in the 200-meter freestyle. Mayo was also able to add on another top-three finish as she took second place in the 500-meter freestyle, clocking in with a time of 5:00.92. Kollanus, Randolph, Heider and Jurek started the day finishing second in the 400-meter freestyle relay.  Senior Michelle Hall earned scores of 173.25 and 169.30 in the 3-meter and 1-meter board events respectively.

The men’s team compiled a score of 553 for the weekend, which was enough to earn them third behind West Virginia and Cincinnati.  Senior Ben Smith claimed the Wildcats best finish in the meet, taking third place in the 200-meter butterfly with a time of 1:56.69.  Villanova also got commendable performances out of Smith, senior Kyle Grant, junior Jason Moyer and freshman Harrison Rodts as the 800-meter freestyle relay team finished fourth. Sophomore Zachary Romanovsky put together a strong performance on the board, earning a score of 158.25 on the first day and a score of 147.15 on Saturday.

Both teams will enjoy a few well-earned days of rest before they’re back in action as they travel to take on Connecticut on Nov. 2.

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