Psych Sheet The Liberty swimming & diving team is set to compete in the Frank Elm Invitational, held Friday through Sunday at RU Aquatics Center in Piscataway, N.J.
This will be Liberty's third appearance in a row at the Frank Elm Invitational. The Lady Flames finished fifth at this meet in 2015 before placing seventh overall last year. Liberty has competed in a mid-season invitational during this corresponding weekend each of its eight years as a program.
So far this season, Liberty holds a 5-2 record, including a 3-0 mark against CCSA opponents. The Lady Flames nearly knocked off defending Big 12 runner-up Kansas and have picked up conference wins over Campbell, Gardner-Webb and Georgia Southern.
Current Liberty assistant coach Jessica Barnes served as an assistant coach at Rutgers during the 2009-10 season before joining the inaugural Liberty swimming & diving coaching staff.
A total of nine teams are scheduled to compete at Rutgers this weekend, including Central Connecticut, Columbia, James Madison, Liberty, LIU Brooklyn, Navy, Northeastern, Rutgers and Wagner. CCSU is the three-time defending NEC champion, while Navy won the Patriot League title in 2017. Liberty (CCSA) and James Madison (CAA) earned runner-up finishes at their respective conference meets last year.
This week's meet will feature a championship format, similar to the program that will be followed at the 2018 CCSA Swimming & Diving Championships and 2018 NCAA Championships. The three-day program will consist of two sessions each day, with preliminary heats in the morning, starting at 9:30 a.m. and evening finals at 5 p.m.
How to Follow the Lady Flames Fans unable to attend the Rutgers Invitational can follow the action through live timing, provided by Rutgers.
Weekly Honors Junior Amy Schools was named CCSA Women's Diver of the Week on Oct. 10, after completing her first collegiate diving competition, Oct. 6-7 at Kansas. She ranks fifth in program history in the one-meter and three-meter diving events. Schools is the fourth Lady Flame to earn CCSA Diver of the Week honors and first since teammate Jenna Joyal, who earned the same recognition on Oct. 11, 2016.
In its last meet, Liberty dominated a tri-meet against Gardner-Webb (166.5-94.5) and Georgia Southern (194-67). The Lady Flames won 12 out of 14 total events, while setting Gardner-Webb pool records in the 200 free relay and 200 medley relay, along with the 100 fly (Lindsey Cohee – 56.81), 200 fly (Lindsey Cohee – 2:04.48) and 100 back (Brittany Weiss – 56.99).
Starting last season, Rachel Hoeve has been dominant in the 50 free, going undefeated in dual meets. She has won the event 10 straight times in dual-meet action, including a big win over Virginia Tech's top sprinters on Oct. 20. She made three A Finals appearances at the 2017 CCSA Championships, highlighted by a fourth-place finish in the 50 free in NCAA B cut, personal-best 22.76. Her 22.76 50 free is tied for third in program history.
Liberty's relays had great performances at Virginia Tech on Oct. 20. The 200 free relay of Hoeve, Colleen Donlin, Brittany Weiss and Hannah Baker won in 1:33.79, .01 seconds ahead of Virginia Tech's A team. Liberty's 200 medley relay placed third, but their time of 1:43.07 was the third-fastest regular-season 200 medley relay time in program history.
Cohee has been impressive early on in her career, posting wins in both the 100 fly and 200 fly. She is already fifth on the program's all-time top 10 performers list in the 200 fly (2:04.22) and seventh in the 100 fly (55.93).
Payton Keiner won the 200 back at the season opener at Campbell before claiming the same event at Kansas. Her season-best 2:03.15 at Kansas ranks seventh all-time in program history for the event. She is also ranked fourth in program history in the 50 backstroke (26.49), eighth in the 1000 freestyle (10:26.52) and 10th in the 100 back (56.44).
Brittany Weiss won the 100 back at Kansas in 55.84, before lowering her season best to 55.37 at Virginia Tech. Weiss earned Most Outstanding Freshman of the CCSA Meet in 2017. She won the CCSA 100 back in program-record, NCAA B cut time, 53.42. She also swam a B cut in the 100 fly, placing fifth in 54.15.
Alicia Finnigan earned victory at Kansas in the 200 fly, swimming 2:03.91, before going 2:03.71 at the Virginia Tech Sprint Challenge. Finnigan won the 200 fly at the 2017 conference meet, before setting a conference record, with a time of 1:56.15 at the Bulldog Last Chance Meet to qualify for the NCAA Championships. She then tied for 10th place in the 200-meter butterfly at the Phillips 66 National Championships in the summer.
A pair of additional freshmen have entered the program's top 10 this season, in Kiah Francis (400 IM – 6th in 4:33.59) and Emily Manly (400 IM – 5th in 4:32.32).
A key moment in program history will take place this season, as the Liberty Natatorium is set to open this fall. The Lady Flames will contest their first meet at the state-of-the-art facility on Dec. 1-2, with the Grand Opening set for Jan. 26-27. The Liberty Natatorium will house an Olympic-sized pool with a separate diving well, along with seating for 1,400 spectators in a wraparound setting. The facility will feature the newest and best technology.
Head Coach Jake Shellenberger is in his eighth season at the helm, guiding the program since the inaugural 2010-11 campaign. He has posted a 78-30 dual-meet record, twice being named CCSA Women's Swimming Coach of the Year. His teams have gone 45-14 against CCSA competition.
Last season, Finnigan (500 free, 100 fly, 200 fly) and Prudence Rooker (100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke, 200 IM) became the fifth and sixth swimmers in program history to post three top-three finishes at a single CCSA Championship meet.
Rooker is a five-time podium finisher at the conference level, including three medal performances in 2017. Last season, she placed second at the CCSA Championships in the 100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke and 200 IM. Rooker swam B cuts in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM.
The 2017-18 Lady Flames return 21 student-athletes from last year's squad, while welcoming 11 newcomers. With the opening of the Liberty Natatorium imminent, Liberty has fielded a complement of seven divers.
Liberty returns 16 student-athletes who scored points at the 2017 CCSA Championships, including 14 who earned a combined 25 top-eight finishes at last year's league meet.
Following this weekend's invitational, Liberty will next compete at its brand-new Liberty Natatorium in a meet held, Dec. 1-2. Competing schools include Liberty, Campbell, Old Dominion (diving only), Ferrum, Hampden-Sydney, Roanoke College and Sweet Briar.
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