The Wolf Pack made its presence felt in College Station, Texas, the city that hosted the Mountain West Swim and Dive Championship. Nevada diver Sharae Zheng marked her place in MW lore books, breaking the all-time record on the 1-meter spring board. In addition to Zheng’s individual accomplishments, Nevada took third place, placing in the top three for the second year in a row.
Nevada left the whistling winds and snowy peaks of Reno to embark on a quest for gold during Mountain West Championship play in College Station on Feb. 15. The Wolf Pack was as hot as ever, ending day one with 198-points, just two-points behind first-place Boise State.
Zheng led Pack divers assisting in accumulating 98-points towards the total 198-point total by setting two records on the day in the same event: 1-meter springboard. Zheng put up a score of 347.25 in the preliminary rounds of the 1-meter springboard, breaking the MW Championship record. She then broke her own record that same day with a score of 359.35 in the finals of the event. The diving portion of the competition was rounded out by sophomores Zoe Lei and Toma Shmitova, who finished in third and fifth place with scores of 328.60 and 317.35, respectively.
While Nevada’s divers made their mark early, so too did the team’s swimmers. The first event of the day for this group was the 200-yard medley, in which four Pack swimmers competed: Jaeger Turner, Emma Payne, Jamie Reynolds and Rebecca Murray. These four completed the medley in 1:40.79, failing to acquire a first place finish by just three seconds. Their final event of the day was the 800-freestyle relay. The teams consisted of seniors Teresa Baerens and Sita Kussserow, as well as freshman Andressa Cholodovskis Lima and Murray. Nevada finished in second place with a time of 7:07.78, assisting their team in taking second place for day one of competition.
The next day yielded similar results to day one. Zheng once again marked her name in history and the Pack maintained its second place position.
Zheng has followed in the foot steps of her predecessor Krysta Palmer, continuing to shock the swim and diving world with her skill and poise. While just a day earlier she broke the record on the 1-meter spring board twice, her performance followed suit the following day as she broke the all-time record on the 3-meter springboard. With a score of 421.45, Zheng broke the original record by 5.87 points.
In addition, Baerens won the 200-yard IM title, clocking in with a time of 1:58.92, and senior Arantxa Medina-Alegria won the B final in the 200-yard IM with a time of 2:01.74. Nevada also placed in fourth and fifth during the 200-IM as Lima recorded a time of 2:00.57 with Caitlyn Richardson coming in closely behind her with a time of 2:01.29.
During its third day of contention for the MWC Championship, Nevada took a step back in the standings, falling to third place. Nevada totaled day three with 748 points, trailing SDSU by 21.
Baerens and Murray started the Pack’s day with a second and fourth place finish respectively in the 200-yard freestyle. Lima also participated in the 200-yard freestyle, finishing in eighth place, with a time of 1:48.68. The Pack’s 400-yard medley relay team finished just .26 seconds shy of second place, taking home fourth.
After dropping a place from day two to day three, the Wolf Pack had some work to do to stay in the top-three.
Zheng again highlighted Nevada’s divers, as she scored a 298.00 on the platform dive. Her closest competitor was more than 15-points behind the benchmark she set. Baerens said farewell to the Pack swim and dive program, following her fourth place finish in the 100-yard freestyle, as well as assisting the team in finishing in second place during the 400-yard freestyle. Senior Riley Hilbrandt also performed for her final time in a Pack uniform, placing sixth in the 200-yard breaststroke.
With impressive efforts from both the divers and swimmers, Nevada placed third overall in the MWC Championship, losing to just San Diego State and Boise State.
The Wolf Pack performed at a high level, on the biggest stage in the Mountain West. Zheng was named Mountain West Diver of the Year for 2017, as she broke numerous records during their stint in College Station. While Zheng may have been the only Pack participant to break records, 10 divers and swimmers received All-team Conference nods after the Mountain West Championship was said and done. Head coach Brendon Bray was elated that his team received so many honorable mentions.
“The girls worked super hard all year and we have some great swim accomplishments,” Bray said. “They deserve it. It’s kind of a reflection of how hard they’ve worked this season.”
Bray also spoke of his team being an underdog coming into the championship. If underdog status was evaluated on record alone, Nevada would not be seen as one. The Pack was an underdog team for one other reason. They did not have a full team of swimmers to send to the championship.
“I’m very pleased with how we did, based on how we came in,” Bray said.
Although Nevada did not win the MWC Championship for a second year in a row, Bray still believes this season was a success.
“In general I just think we did the best we could this season,” Bray said. “I’m pleased to be in the top-3 and we expect to improve next season.”