FORT MYERS, Fla. – FGCU Swimming & Diving (0-0) sits atop the team scores in the FGCU Invitational following the first day of events, as the squad’s 442 points outrank second-place FIU (0-0) and third-place Georgia Southern (0-1). The Panthers wrapped up the day with 331 points, while the visiting Eagles finished with a score of 211.
“It’s great to have the team back and racing,” head coach Dave Rollins said. “Being our first meet, but also it being November, brings us a lot of challenges. Tonight, I saw a lot of fantastic swims and to see some lifetime bests was awesome. We had some very solid relay performances and unmatched team cheering and support. The team is off to a great start and I’m looking forward to the next few days.”
The Eagles got off to a hot start, taking first and third in the opening event of the finals session: the 200-yard freestyle relay. The quartet of sophomore Hailey Jerew (Miami, Fla./Cutler Bay Senior High), junior Wiktoria Czarnecka (Lublin, Poland/Liceum 10 NR W Lublinie), freshman Zuzanna Rabiniak (Radom, Poland/X Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace Mistrzostwa Sportowego W Lublinie) and sophomore Kaja Reinhardt (Herdecke, Germany/Helene-Lange-Gymnasium Dortmund) bested FIU’s ‘A’ Team by over a full second when they earned the win (1:32.68). The team of freshman Emma Hixenbaugh (Louisville, Ky./Ballard HS), junior Meghan Schienvar (Holmdel, N.J./Holmdel HS), sophomore Claire McAtee (Louisville, Ky./Sacred Heart Academy) and sophomore Julia Rodriguez (Gainesville, Fla./Buccholz HS) touched the wall third to round out the scoring (1:35.00).
Sophomore Sara Niepelova (Piestany, Slovakia/ECU) continued to build on FGCU’s lead in the 500 Free, as the newcomer swam a 4:57.52 en route to grabbing the team’s first individual victory of the day. She was followed closely by sophomore Michaela Sizemore (Fredericksburg, Va./Stafford Senior HS), whose time of 5:00.56 was good for a third-place finish and sophomore Hannah VanDress (Cape Coral, Fla./Bishop Verot), who finished fourth (5:03.50). Junior Alexis Durlacher (Jacksonville, Fla./Florida State) and freshman Sophia Macaisa (Inverness, Fla./Lecanto HS) also scored in the ‘A’ Final, finishing fifth and eighth, respectively.
The winning momentum carried into the following event, the 200 IM, as junior Petra Halmai (Dombovar, Hungary/Lanczos Kornel Secondari Grammar School) swam a 2:00.90 and took it home. Sophomore Anna Hogan (Louisville, Ky./DuPont Manual School) and Rodriguez, who finished third and eighth, also picked up key points for the Eagles, turning in a combined 27.
On the boards, the Eagles competed against some of the toughest competition in the state as they squared off against a pair of returning CSCAA All-Americans from last season’s FIU team. Redshirt-junior Megan Wakefield (Guelph, Ontario, Canada/Centennial CVI) led the team with a fourth-place finish, and was followed by fifth-place sophomore Delaney Nelson (Cincinnati, Ohio/Ursuline Academy) and sixth-place sophomore Alyssa Schmidt (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS).
The final individual event of the evening, the 50-yard freestyle, saw the home pick up its first sweep of the invitational. Czarnecka led the effort with an NCAA ‘B’ Cut time of 22.66, while Jerew and Rabiniak rounded out the sweep.
FGCU earned its last 72 points of the night in the 400-yard medley relay, where a pair of Eagle relays finished first and third once again. Freshman Alicja Ulicka (Rybno, Poland/Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace IM Wislawy Szymborskiej), Halmai, Czarnecka and Rabiniak out-paced second-place FIU by nearly three seconds to win the event, while McAtee, Arngeirsdottir, Rodriguez and Reinhardt finished third.
The FGCU Invitational will continue tomorrow beginning at 10 a.m. with a prelim session at the FGCU Aquatics Center. There will be a 1 p.m. diving prelim before the 5 p.m. finals session, which will be streamed on Facebook Live.
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HEAD COACH DAVE ROLLINS
Head coach Dave Rollins is only the second coach in program history. He was hired Sept. 1, 2016 and owns a 32-20-1 (.615) dual meet record, which includes an 11-2 (.846) mark against CCSA opponents, in his fourth season. Rollins guided FGCU to back-to-back CCSA titles (2017, 2018), as well as the program’s fourth-straight title in 2018, marking the ninth championship in 10 years. In addition, he has been awarded CCSA Coach of the Year in two of his seasons at the helm. Previously, Rollins was the associate head men’s swimming coach at The Ohio State University. Rollins brings over a decade of coaching experience to The Nest, which includes helping to develop Olympians, NCAA Champions and All-Americans, along with multiple conference champions. A native of Brockton, Mass., he was a standout collegiate swimmer in his own right and was inducted into the University of Arizona’s Hall of Fame in 2017, as a nine-time NCAA All-American, national champion, school record holder and team captain.
To help offset the financial impact of COVID-19, FGCU Athletics has launched the Sustaining Flight Fundraiser and Auction. The fundraising campaign will help mitigate operational revenue loss and the additional expenses incurred as a result of COVID-19 protocols. All funds raised during the campaign will go to support areas that directly impact student-athletes.
In lieu of hosting the annual Night at the Nest gala this year, one of FGCU’s most successful fundraising events, the department will be hosting a virtual, online auction from Monday, Nov. 30 through Friday, Dec. 4. Fans and supporters will be able to bid on exclusive memorabilia, trip packages, unique event experiences and more. For more information, visit www.fgcuathletics.com/sustainingflight.
IT TAKES A TEAM to achieve our newest goal – a $10 million campaign to address student-athlete needs in continued academic success, life skills, mental health, nutrition, and strength and conditioning as well as departmental needs in facility expansion and improvement as well as mentoring and leadership training for coaches and staff. The name embodies our mission and the purpose of the E.A.G.L.E. Campaign – Eagle Athletics Generating Lifetime Excellence. Join Our Team and pledge your gift today to help the Eagles of tomorrow!
FGCU Athletics sponsors events in November and April to benefit the FGCU Campus Food Pantry (www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry) and the Harry Chapin Food Bank (www.harrychapinfoodbank.org), FGCU Athletics’ charities of choice. For more information, including how to make a contribution, please visit www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry and utilize the hashtag #FeedFGCU to help raise awareness.
FGCU teams have combined to win an incredible 82 conference regular season and tournament titles in just 13 seasons at the Division I level. Additionally, in just nine seasons of D-I postseason eligibility, the Eagles have had a combined 38 teams or individuals compete in NCAA championships. Seven FGCU programs have earned a top-25 national ranking in their respective sport – including women’s basketball (No. 24, 2019-20) and both men’s soccer (2018, 2019) and women’s soccer (2018) as three of the most recent. In 2016-17, the Green and Blue posted a department-best sixth-place finish in the DI-AAA Learfield Directors’ Cup and top-100 showing nationally, ahead of several Power-5 and FBS institutions. In 2018-19, the Eagles had an ASUN and state of Florida best seven teams earn the NCAA’s Public Recognition Award for their Academic Progress Rate (APR) in their sport and have had the highest percentage of teams so honored from these two groups over each of the past three years. FGCU also collectively earned a record 3.46 GPA in the classroom in the spring 2020 semester and has outperformed the general University undergraduate population for 22 consecutive semesters. The 2019 Fall and 2020 Spring semesters each saw another milestone reached as all 15 programs achieved a 3.0-or-higher team GPA. The Eagles also served an all-time high 7,200 volunteer hours in 2017 – being recognized as one of two runners-up for the inaugural NACDA Community Service Award presented by the Fiesta Bowl.