Lady Flames swimming & diving dominates two-day-home-weekend meet

Friday, Oct. 26 will go down in Liberty University history as a monumental day for Flames athletics. For the first time ever, Bringham Young University visited Liberty’s campus and it has been a long time coming. The late Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. always envisioned that Liberty would represent Protestants like BYU represents Mormons.

“This was a historic day for Liberty University, not just our swimming and diving program,” Swimming & Diving Head Coach Jake Shellenberger said. “This is the first time that a BYU athletic team has competed on our campus. … (Falwell) always said, ‘We want to be what BYU is for Mormons and Notre Dame for Catholics, and we want to be sort of that third school for
Protestant Christians.’”

Liberty Swimming & Diving hosted BYU, as well as Gardner-Webb and Old Dominion Friday and Saturday. While the other two teams added good competition to the event, the main team of focus was BYU.

Erik Flores | Liberty News Service
The Lady Flames swimming and diving team hosts an impressive 8-0 all-time record at home.

“BYU has 20 national titles in their various sports,” Shellenberger said. “They’ve got a football national championship, obviously, and a world-renowned prestigious university. … To have them compete here on this campus is special.”

Liberty did not shy away from the competition as they came out swimming fast and set the tone for the event.

“We swam and dove lights out,” Shellenberger said. “For the first time in our program’s history we won a diving event. This is the first year that we have recruited divers, so that was a lot of fun to win that diving event.”

The Flames held a 132-54 lead over BYU, 157-26 over Gardner-Webb and 149-37 over Old Dominion after day one.

“As a team, I think we did absolutely incredible,” junior freestyle sprinter Colleen Donlin said. “We came in super excited, in front of a home crowd on a Friday night.”

The swimming events that the Flames won on Friday were the 200-meter relay (Donlin was the anchor), 200 individual medley, 50 freestyle (won by Donlin), 200 freestyle, 100 breaststroke, 100 butterfly and 200 free relay (Donlin was the anchor as well). Donlin said she was really happy with her swims, as she broke her season time for the 50 free.

Freshman Diver Olivia Robinson also won the 3-meter diving event on Friday with a combined score of 281.25 on six dives. Shellenberger said it was special because it was the first time in the program’s 9-year history that they won a diving event.

Erik Flores | Liberty News Service
 The diving team earned a score of 281.25 on six dives.

The Flames used their energy to sweep the competition, finishing out strong by winning five events on Saturday. They won by final scores of 232-118 over BYU, 290-56 over Gardner-Webb and 275-76 over Old Dominion. Their domination brought Liberty to a 7-0 record, and after an 11-2 finish last year they hope to finish even better this year.

After finishing 5-0 at the Liberty Natatorium last year, the Flames now have an 8-0 record all-time at the natatorium after swimming home to a 3-0 record this weekend.

Both Shellenberger and Donlin said the major goal for this year is to win the conference championship, especially since it will be at home. Shellenberger said it will either be Liberty or Florida Golf Coast jumping in Liberty Natatorium’s pool come Feb. 23, as that is the tradition of the team that wins the conference title.

“This year has definitely been really fun,” Donlin said. “I believe we have the strongest team we’ve had ever.

She said she believes the team can win the conference title this year, and she hopes they can succeed at the NCAA Championships.

Liberty Flames Swimming & Diving will be at home next for the Liberty Invitational Nov. 16-18.

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