Posted: Saturday, 16 February 2013 7:46PM

Bears Bring Home Unprecedented 6th Consecutive MVC Title



Carbondale, Il. -- On Saturday (Feb. 16), the Missouri State women became the first program in Missouri Valley Conference history to win six consecutive titles, overpowering the field at the 2013 MVC Swimming & Diving Championships. As Missouri State closes in on Southern Illinois’ league-leading 13 conference championships, the Bears pulled within three, winning for the 10th time in 11 seasons.

Altogether, the Bears won 11 events and picked up five NCAA provisional times on the weekend. Juniors Renata Sander and Anna Ahlin had two apiece, while senior Melissa Oishi went out on top with her first career NCAA ‘B’ cut.

Missouri State finished with 897 points, 121 ahead of runner-up Illinois State (776 points), which has placed second in each of the past five conference meets. Rounding out the standings were Southern Illinois (721), Evansville (450) and Northern Iowa (294).

For the second year in a row, junior 
Renata Sander was named MVC Swimmer of the Year after getting first in both breaststroke races, winning the 200 IM and appearing on the Bears’ first-place medley relays. Sander was also joined by co-MVC Swimmers of the Year Dora Kiss of Missouri State and Evansville's Michelle Tipton. In his first full season as head coach, Dave Collins was named co-MVC Swimming Coach of the Year.

The Bears opened the night with two freshman swimmers in the top heat of the 1650 free. The pair combined for 24 points as Heather Snyder (17:04.60) recorded a runner-up finish, while Carly Wright finished 10th overall (17:50.02). Snyder made a significant jump up the rankings after entering the meet with the Valley’s seventh-fastest time. 

Missouri State struck gold for the first time on Saturday when two-time defending champion Anna Ahlin controlled the race from the start and tallied her third title in as many years. Winning by more than three seconds, Ahlin recorded her second NCAA ‘B’ cut of the weekend with a time of 1:59.17. Overall, the Bears claimed three of the top four spots as sophomore Megan Holthoff collected another bronze medal (2:02.43) and Emily Chesser edged out SIU’s Hannah Pinion for fourth (2:03.75). In the final swim of her collegiate career, senior Kaylee Steffen posted a time of 2:05.63 to finish in eighth.

Freshman Kate Gately nearly picked up a second win in the 100 free, but a come-from-behind performance by Evansville’s Michelle Tipton pushed the St. Louis, Mo. product into the runner-up spot. Gately (51.20) now ranks third on the Bears’ all-time top performers list, while her 100 free counterpart, Andrea Uzcategui, finished fifth and ends her career ranked fourth all-time (51.68).

The Bears showed their depth on the podium throughout the week, however the 200 breaststroke was on a different level. For starters, Missouri State swept the top four spots in the race with Renata Sander, Melissa Oishi, Alyssa Powers and Olivia Gean. In an interesting turn of events, defending champion Sander and Oishi were neck-and-neck the entire race and finished that way. Tying for first, Sander and Oishi set a new school, conference and pool record (2:13.77) and were well under the NCAA consideration time.

Dropping another second and a half from her prelims time, sophomore Alyssa Powers clocked in at 2:17.03 and finished third for the second time this week. Rounding out the Bears’ finishers was Olivia Gean, who went 2:20.24.

Missouri State’s Dora Kiss kept the gold rush going with her third victory of the weekend in the 200 fly. Also contributing to the record-breaking action, the freshman from Budapest, Hungary set a new varsity, championship and Shea Natatorium standard (1:59.92). Seeded seventh, freshman Rebecca Amparano made the biggest jump of any swimmer, moving up four spots to snag third place (2:02.66). Additionally, the Bears picked up another 27 points with fifth- and sixth-place finishes by Ibby Simcox (2:03.74) and Roni Balzam (2:04.54).

Missouri State’s 400 free relay of Gately, Ahlin, Holthoff, Uzcategui made it onto the podium one last time, finishing third overall with a time of 3:26.69. 

Twelve Bears earned All-MVC first team honors and another seven were named All-MVC honorable mention.

Final Team Standings
1. Missouri State - 897
2. Illinois State - 776
3. Southern Illinois - 721
4. Evansville - 450
5. UNI - 294

MVC Awards
2013 MVC Co-Swimmer of the Year - 
Renata Sander, Missouri State; Dora Kiss, Missouri State; Michelle Tipton, Evansville
2013 MVC Diver of the Year – Wenting Zhang, Illinois State
2013 MVC Co-Swimming Coach of the Year  Dave Collins, Missouri State; Rickey Perkins, Evansville
2013 MVC Diving Coach of the Year – Phil Hoffmann, Illinois State

All-MVC First Team

Anna Ahlin (Jr.) – Rebecca Amparano (Fr.) – Roni Balzam (So.) – Kate Gately (Fr.) – Megan Holthoff (So.) – Dora Kiss (Fr.) – Melissa Oishi (Sr.) – Alyssa Powers (So.) – Renata Sander (Jr.) – Ibby Simcox (Fr.) – Heather Snyder(Fr.) – Andrea Uzcategui (Sr.)

All-MVC Honorable Mention
Emily Chesser (Fr.) – Lindsey Conway (Jr.) – Janke Engelbrecht (Jr.) – Olivia Gean (Fr.) – Hannah Molden (Jr.) –Kaylee Steffen (Sr.) – Suzanne Van Rensburg (So.)

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