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Lady Flames swimmers and divers seal share of fourth CCSA Championship in home pool

Liberty’s women’s swimming & diving team earned a share of its fourth CCSA Championship title, held Monday through Wednesday at the Liberty Natatorium, sharing the crown with Florida Gulf Coast University. (Photos by Andrew Snyder)

After 20 events and thousands of points scored, Liberty University and Florida Gulf Coast University finished as co-champions at the 2021 CCSA Women’s Swimming & Diving Championship, which wrapped up Wednesday night at the Liberty Natatorium.

This is the second time that the Lady Flames have served as host for the CCSA Championships, also hosting in 2019. That year, Liberty won its second conference title before the Lady Flames defended their title last year in Knoxville, Tenn.

This is the first time in CCSA history that two teams have finished in a tie for the title, as Liberty and FGCU both scored exactly 1,748.5 points. The Lady Flames have now claimed their fourth CCSA title in program history, with the first one coming in 2014. FGCU earns its 10th total CCSA title and first since 2018.

Liberty held an eight-point lead heading into the final event, the 400 freestyle relay. The Eagles won in 3 minutes, 20.87 seconds for 70 points with Liberty finishing second in 3:21.75, scoring 62 points.  With social distancing in effect, Liberty swam in heat one, and watched as FGCU swam the second heat to wrap up the co-championship.

Liberty posted 11 top-nine finishes on Wednesday, including six podium finishes, two event victories, and two NCAA B cuts. For the the meet, Liberty earned 21 top-three finishes, including seven event victories, set one program record, and earned three NCAA Zone Qualifying scores and four NCAA B cuts.

Lady Flames senior Payton Keiner celebrates with junior teammate Emma Hazel after winning her fourth straight CCSA 200-yard backstroke championship, Wednesday at the Liberty Natatorium.

Lady Flames freshman Maddie Freece was named CCSA Most Outstanding Diver of the Meet after winning both the one-meter and three-meter diving events this week. She joins current teammate Lauren Chennault, who was named CCSA Co-Most Outstanding Diver of the Meet last year.

Senior Payton Keiner claimed her fourth straight 200 backstroke title, becoming Liberty’s first swimmer to win four CCSA titles in the same event.  She joins only Davidson’s Lindsey Martin (50 free and 100 free, 2008-11) and FGCU’s Leah Daniel (1650 free, 2009-12) as swimmers to have won four CCSA titles in the same event in their careers.

Liberty went 1-2-3 in the 200 backstroke for the second year in a row, led by Keiner (B cut 1:54.73), a four-time champion. Emma Hazel (1:57.69) finished second, while Eva Suggs (1:58.48) finished third. Hazel now has six career podium finishes, while Suggs has five.

Keiner has now posted eight career podium finishes, including a program-record seven individual-event titles.

Senior Lindsey Cohee won the 200 fly for the second straight year, extending Liberty’s winning streak in the 200 fly to five years, in an NCAA B cut time of 1:58.87.

>> Read complete coverage of the CCSA Championships on the Liberty Athletics website.