<b><i>Good As Gold!</i><br>Karen Gerken</b><br>Hanszen College

Women's Swimming & Diving

Karen Gerken Wins 500-Freestyle Thursday at C-USA Swimming Championships

Feb. 25, 2010

Results

HOUSTON - Led by junior Karen Gerken's individual title in the 500-yard freestyle, and a particularly strong showing from all the Owl distance racers, the Rice swim team is in second place after the second day of competition at the 2010 Conference USA Swimming and Diving Championships Thursday night across town at the University of Houston Recreation Center Natatorium.

The four-day conference championship meet continues at 10 am Friday and wraps-up Saturday evening. After Thursday SMU is in first place with 270 points while Rice holds a narrow one-point lead over crosstown rival and meet host Houston for second place, 206-205. East Carolina is in fourth (189 points), followed by Tulane (116 pts.) and Marshall (76).

Gerken powered her way to a career-best and NCAA provisional qualifying time of 4:52.13 to win the C-USA championship in the 500-freestyle. The distance specialist from Austin is only the third Rice individual league champion in swimming since the Owls joined Conference USA five years ago. After qualifying as the second-seeded competitor in the event's preliminaries Thursday morning, and behind an eye-opening performance from Owl freshman Danielle Spence who blazed to a top-seeded 4:50.00 for the fifth-fastest 500-time in Rice history, Gerken was all-business in the evening finals.

Even with a long 500-yards in front of her, Gerken said her strategy was not to keep anything in the tank for the later stages of the race. She dashed for her first 200-yards and in the process eclipsed her previous career-best time for that distance (1:53.40). Houston was in the lead at 200-yards (1:53.16) and Gerken was actually closer to being in third place than leading, as East Carolina was only 18-hundredths-of-a-second behind at 1:53.58. Gerken trailed by more than half-a-second at the 400-mark, but moved into a tie for first place 50-yards later and made a gutsy sprint over the final 50 yards to win the individual championship by nearly three-tenths of a second (4:52.13 to 4:52.40).

"I knew I would swim my best if I went out at my fastest," Gerken said. "I was getting tired, but I was also getting more confident and more anxious to win. We had a lot of Rice girls, my teammates, in the (500's) event finals tonight and I think that helped. We were all racing and that made us better."

The Owls indeed came up big in the 500-freestyle with four finishers in the championship final. Sophomore Alex O'Brien finished fourth overall with a 4:54.60. Spence was sixth, swimming a 4:55.69 in the finals after the 4:50.00 in the prelims. Sophomore Nicole Delaloye eclipsed the five minute mark (4:59.56) to take eighth.

Sophomore Shelby Bottoms finished third in the 200-individual medley (2:02.33) while freshman Kylee Talwar was tenth (2:05.57). Junior Erin Mattson placed sixth in the 50-freestyle (23.50) while senior Pam Zelnick was ninth (23.57).

The Blue & Gray closed the night's action with a fourth-place finish in the 400-medley relay. The foursome of senior Angela Wo, Zelnick, Mattson and Bottoms posted a 3:47.16 for the second-best mark in Rice history. Owl head coach Seth Huston said he was pleased with some of the performances but, as the day-two team standings scrolled across the UH natatorium scoreboard, stated he would be looking for even better results over the nest two days.

"Karen had an awesome swim tonight, she did great this morning too," Huston said. "She wants to get out fast and be in front, and she did that and just drove her home. That's what makes a champion. She earned it.

"We scored well in that 500 and Shelby did a nice job taking third in the 200-IM, but I'm convinced we still could have done even better," Huston added. "We had about as good a morning as we could have had, but we weren't as sharp tonight. Tomorrow could be a better day. We have to race and compete."

2010 C-USA Swimming & Diving Championship - Remaining Swim Schedule
FRI., FEBRUARY 26
Preliminaries - 10 am
400-Yard Individual Medley
100-Yard Butterfly
200-Yard Freestyle
100-Yard Breaststroke
100-Yard Backstroke

Finals - 6 pm
200-Yard Freestyle Relay
400-Yard Individual Medley
100-Yard Butterfly
200-Yard Freestyle
100-Yard Breaststroke
100-Yard Backstroke

SAT., FEBRUARY 27
Preliminaries - 10 am
200-Yard Backstroke
100-Yard Freestyle
200-Yard Breaststroke
200-Yard Butterfly
1,650-Yard Freestyle Preliminaries & Finals

Finals - 6 pm
200-Yard Backstroke
100-Yard Freestyle
200-Yard Breaststroke
200-Yard Butterfly
400-Yard Freestyle Relay

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