On a night that began with the Liberty Natatorium Grand Opening ceremony, the Liberty swimming & diving team turned in its best performance so far this season in front of 657 fans, Friday.
Friday's event started with a Grand Opening ceremony. Following an introduction from Liberty Associate Athletics Director for Development/Executive Director of the Flames Club Bob Good, Liberty President Jerry Falwell, Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance CEO Meghan Lucas, Liberty Women's Swimming & Diving Head Coach Jake Shellenberger and Liberty Director of Athletics Ian McCaw all gave their remarks. After a dedicatory prayer by Dr. Ed Gomes came a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The highlight of the evening came when President Falwell took a dive off of the 10-meter platform, bringing a roar from the crowd.
Liberty leads VMI, 155-21, while holding a 145-40 advantage over George Mason. The Patriots lead VMI, 148-26, heading into tomorrow's second and final day.
The Lady Flames had a sensational evening, winning all swimming events while recording the team's fastest times in both relays, plus the 500 free, 200 free, 50 free, 200 IM, 100 breaststroke and 200 butterfly. Liberty swimmers also posted two B cut swims.
Liberty started off the evening with a bang, taking first and second in the 200 medley relay. Liberty's quartet of Payton Keiner, Prudence Rooker, Brittany Weiss and Hannah Baker won in 1:40.83. That time puts them sixth on the program's all-time top 10 performers list.
The fast swimming continued in the 500 freestyle, where Elizabeth Magnusson won in 5:02.89 and Ashlee Sall finished just behind in 5:02.95. Shelby Black swam 5:05.09 for third.
Emily Manly led a 1-2-3 Liberty performance in the 200 free, clocking a 1:51.76. Keiner came in second at 1:52.18, while Alicia Finnigan's 1:54.36 was good for third.
The host Lady Flames had a fantastic showing in the 50 free, with five swimmers breaking 24 seconds, led by event winner Colleen Donlin. Rachel Hoeve took second in 23.53, followed by Ricki Lee Hodges (23.85), Chelsea Pond (23.91) and Danielle Boothe (23.99).
George Mason's Marina Toone scored 297.98 to win the three-meter springboard diving. Jenna Joyal placed third for the Lady Flames with 206.33 points, becoming the fourth diver in program history to score 200 or more points in three-meter diving. Amy Schools placed fourth with 194.40 points.
Liberty continued its dominance in the pool, taking the first three spots in the 200 IM. Baker won in 2:05.95, putting her eighth in program history in the event. Kiah Francis followed in second with a 2:07.30 time, while Lindsey Cohee finished third in 2:08.76.
Weiss earned the 100 backstroke victory in NCAA B cut time 55.04, while Keiner went 55.54 for second. Hoeve (58.22) and Boothe (58.69) finished third and fourth, respectively. Keiner moved up to sixth on Liberty's all-time top 10 performers list in the 100 back.
Rooker then blazed through the 100 breaststroke in an NCAA B cut time, 1:01.82, shaving over two seconds off of her previous season best for the win. Hodges placed second in 1:04.81, while Baker (1:05.68) and Morgan Noonan (1:06.39) took third and fourth. Baker's time moved her to eighth in program history.
Cohee and Finnigan broke 2:02 in the 200 butterfly, with Cohee winning in 2:01.31 and Finnigan taking second at 2:01.36. Cohee's 2:01.36 is fifth on the program top 10 in the event.
Liberty's 200 free relay of Hoeve, Donlin, Weiss and Baker claimed victory in 1:33.04, leading a 1-2-3 Liberty finish.
Tomorrow's action will begin at 11 a.m. at the Liberty Natatorium, beginning with the 400 medley relay. Prior to the 11 a.m. session, Liberty will honor its seven seniors in addition to hosting an alumnae reunion.