Crenshaw Makes it 4-for-4 in 500-Freestyle as Moccasins Widen Their Lead at SSC Championships

Alli Crenshaw
Alli Crenshaw

LAKELAND – Senior Alli Crenshaw made Sunshine State Conference history Saturday night by winning her fourth consecutive league title in the 500-freestyle and then finished the night by helping the Moccasins earn another gold medal in the 800-freestyle relay. In between they also got a win from senior Lauren Reynolds in the 100-backstroke to send Florida Southern into the final day of the SSC Championships with a 102½-point lead for first place.

Seeking their first conference championship, the Moccasins have scored 666½ points through three days and 14 events, with Nova Southeastern scoring 564. Tampa is third with 441½ points, followed by Lynn with 340 and Saint Leo with 315. Florida Tech is sixth with 194, and Rollins is seventh with 172.

Crenshaw became the first swimmer in SSC history, male or female, to win an individual conference championship in the same event four years in a row. Her winning time of 4:57.99 gave her a winning margin of 1.43 seconds over Tampa's Makayla Ayers and Nova Southeastern's Georgina Allin who tied for second. That made it the closest 500-freestyle race in the six years the SSC had held a championship meet. The win was Crenshaw's second at this year's championships following her title in the 1,000-freestyle on Thursday.

The Moccasins also got points and NCAA "B" times from senior Heather Burns and sophomore Peyton Breault who were sixth and seventh respectively. Junior Riley McClendon was 11th.

Reynolds then gave Florida Southern another gold medal when she won the 100-backstroke title for the third time in her career. She had previously been crowned league champion in 2013 and '14. Reynolds had an NCAA "B" time of 56.02 seconds to beat Emma Wahlstrom of Nova Southeastern by 0.11 seconds, which was again the closest championship race in that event. Dar Raz of Florida Tech, who prevented a 4-year sweep by Reynolds after winning the title last year, placed third this year. Florida Southern's only other points in the 100-backstroke came from junior Leah Haney who was second in the consolation final.

Lynn senior Rebecca Matthews won the 100-breaststroke, but even there the Moccasins acquitted themselves well. Freshman Haley DeGrace was third with an NCAA "B" time of 1:03.34, senior Morgan Burns was fifth with another "B" time, and senior Kelsey Gouge was seventh while giving the Mocs a third provisional qualifying mark. Sophomore Jacinda Whittenburg reached the championship finals for the Moccasins too, and junior Cassie Ley was in the consolation finals, which resulted in Florida Southern having five of the top 12 swimmers in the 100-breaststroke.

Junior Kourtney Gavin was the only Moccasin in the finals of the 200-butterfly which she swam in 2:11.51, an event won by Victoria Horsman of Tampa. The Mocs also had freshman Krystal Karas and junior Madi Rowan in the consolation finals.

Florida Southern finished the night by winning the 800-freestyle relay, the first time the Moccasins have ever won that event at the conference championships after three silver medals. Bringing home the gold medal for Florida Southern were Gouge, Crenshaw, Breault and freshman Rebeka Dics who combined for an NCAA "B" time of 7:30.60, a 2.2-second margin of victory over Nova Southeastern's top team. The Moccasins got another "B" time from their second 800-freestyle team of McClendon, Haney, Heather Burns, and Rowan.

The final day of the SSC Championships gets underway Sunday morning at 10 a.m., with the finals in five events scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday night.