BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - WKU sophomore Heitor Rodrigues set a Sun Belt Conference record on his way to a first-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle Thursday night at the Sun Belt Conference Swimming and Diving Championships at Rockwall Aquatics Center of Excellence in Rockwall, Texas.
Rodrigues recorded an SBC meet and conference-record time of 20.09 seconds, breaking the previous conference record of 20.16 set by Eren Onurlo in 2007. The time is the third fastest in WKU history and represents an NCAA provisional qualifying time. Teammates Billy Kunkel and Kevin Knezevich also finished in the top four with times of 20.45 and 20.54, respectively.
"That was just very exciting," Marchionda said. "It is a phenomenal swim and hopefully that will carry him through the next couple days. He has had a really good impact on the men's team just because he is a really hard worker and his work ethic is great. I'm happy for him to have that success today."
After the second day of competition, the Hilltoppers are second in the men's standings with 293.50 points. Denver leads the field with 294.50 points. On the women's side, Denver is first with 275, followed by WKU (256) in second and North Texas (234) third.
WKU freshman Susan Marquess was the top finisher for the Lady Toppers in the 500 freestyle, clocking in a school-record time of 4:50.81. The previous record was set by Sydney Mountford in 2002. Alex Van Oost (4:59.60) followed in seventh while Georgia Smith (4:57.92) and Samantha Holmes (4:58.08) placed 10th and 11th, respectively.
"I thought we did very well overall," Marchionda said. "Susan Marquess had a really good evening swim tonight and we had lifetime bests across the board, so anytime you go lifetime bests you can't complain. We are right in this thing, so it is shaping up to be a pretty good battle as we expected it to be."
In the men's 500 freestyle, Hilltopper junior Adam Dajka posted a time of 4:26.35 on his way to a third-place finish. Adam Pendry placed seventh with a time of 4:34.47 with Loui Little in eighth at 4:33.68. WKU sophomore Neal Rushing won the "B" final, posting a mark of 4:33.95.
Lady Toppers freshman Hannah Runyon-Hass finished third in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:00.38. WKU placed four in the top eight with Kristiana Feeser (2:05.85), Allie Duff (2:02.98) and Stephanie Martin (2:05.27) placing sixth, seventh and eighth.
The Hilltoppers also placed four in the top eight in the men's 200 individual medley. Freshman Seth Musser paced the group with a time of 1:40.50, good enough for fourth place. Luke Musser (1:51.18) was sixth followed by Drew Cato (1:51.37) and Lucas Zelehowsky (1:54.01). Sophomore Sam Dalton won the "B" final with a time of 1:51.37.
In the men's 3-meter diving finals, the Hilltopper trio of seniors Vinnie Rominger, Jim Ritter and Johnny Field placed 4-5-6. Rominger led the way with a score of 328.85 followed by Ritter (320.85) and Field (301.30).
"The depth there in our diving was one of the things that kept us close," Marchionda said. "They did a great job and we are hoping they can do the same on the 1-meter, which will be on the last day of the meet."
The 200 freestyle relay represented the final event of Day Two of competition. The Lady Toppers quartet of Feeser, Mishler, Smith and Drazga placed second with a time of 1:32.57. On the men's side, WKU was disqualified for an early take-off.
Friday begins with the preliminaries in the 400 individual medley at 11 a.m., followed by the 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle, 100 breaststroke and the 100 backstroke. The women's 1-meter diving preliminaries are scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m. The evening session will feature finals in all five events, concluding with the 400 medley relay.
"I think tomorrow is going to be a make-or-break situation," Marchionda said. "We have the ability to do some great things tomorrow and I think it's the hardest of the seven sessions to get up for mentally, so we have been preparing for that. Hopefully that is going to pay off for us and we'll come out on fire tomorrow."
Live results from both sessions Thursday and post-race videos will be available at SunBeltSports.org.