ORLANDO – Trying to lock down a runner-up finish in the meet, Florida Southern used a pair of silver medals from juniors Alli Crenshaw and Lauren Reynolds, and a bronze from junior Kelsey Gouge to do just that. Behind that trio, and a strong showing from their distance swimmers, the Moccasins pulled away from Tampa and finished second to Nova Southeastern at the 2015 Sunshine State Conference Women's Swimming Championships.
The Moccasins not only started the day with a 29½-point lead over Tampa for second place, they knew they were certain to expand on it right away. With three of the top five seed times in the 1,650-freestyle, the Mocs dominated that event, even though Tampa freshman Brit Bayes won it in 16:59.29, putting her 8.68 seconds ahead of Crenshaw, who finished second. However, the Mocs also took third place with junior Heather Burns, sixth place with sophomore Elizabeth Fris, and 10th place with sophomore Madi Rowan, all of them with better times than Tampa's #2 swimmer in the 1,650.
The Spartans fared a little better in the 100-freestyle, though Gouge still finished ahead of all the Tampa swimmers in third place with a time of 50.78 seconds. That actually equaled her winning time in 2014, but this year Nova Southeastern freshman Bryndis Hansen broke the meet record with a mark of 49.28. That also gave Hansen three individual wins in the meet, making her the first swimmer to accomplish that since Florida Southern's Mary O'Sullivan went 3-for-3 in the inaugural SSC Championships in 2011.
The Spartans went on to take fourth, fifth and seventh in the A finals of the 100-freestyle, but the Moccasins had two of the top three finishers in the B finals with sophomore Cassie Ley winning that race in 51.89 seconds and freshman Britt Aubley coming in third and reaching the NCAA provisional qualifying time in the process. With sophomore Riley McClendon and freshman Peyton Breault also scoring points for Florida Southern, the Moccasins were still ahead of the Spartans by 38½.
Reynolds and the 200-backstroke swimmers then helped Florida Southern widen that lead, with all four Moccasins finishing ahead of their closest competitors from the Spartans. Reynolds earned a silver medal by finishing second to Nova freshman Courtney DeVeny, whose winning time of 1:57.18 was yet another SSC Championship record. It also gave DeVeny her third win of the meet, matching her teammate Hansen. Reynolds finished two spots ahead of Tampa's top swimmer in the 200-backstroke, and Breault was three spots ahead of the Spartans' #2. Sophomores Lily Rose and Alex Ballard were each one spot ahead of the remaining two Tampa swimmers in B finals of the 200, and that gave Florida Southern an additional eight points onto its lead.
In the 200-breaststroke, which was the final individual event of the meet, Florida Southern and Tampa each had only one swimmer make it to the A finals and they finished one spot apart. Moccasin freshman Jacinda Whittenburg was fifth in a season-best time of 2:22.70 with the Spartans' Elizabeth Penrod sixth. The B finals was where the Mocs pulled away though, as junior Morgan Burns and sophomore Kourtney Gavin took the top two positions. Lynn's Rebecca Matthews was the overall winner in the 200-breatstroke in an SSC record time of 2:13.28, joining the two swimmers from Nova Southeastern a 3-event champion in this year's meet.
With second place now assured, the Moccasins closed out the meet with a fourth-place finish in the 400-freestyle relay, which was won by Nova Southeastern. Florida Southern's A team of Gouge, Crenshaw, Breault, and Aubley had a time of 3:29.61.
Florida Southern finished as the SSC runner-up for the second year in a row and the third time overall. The Moccasins scored a total of 760½ points, while Nova Southeastern won its second title with 853½ points. Tampa, which won the league title the last two years, was third with 712. Saint Leo placed fourth with 392 points, followed by Lynn (343), Florida Tech (301), and Rollins (238). A total of 17 SSC Championship records were broken in the 19 events held.
Florida Southern will now prepare for the NCAA Division II National Finals, which run March 11-14 in Indianapolis.