Former PVHS swimmers help GCU to conference crowns

The Grand Canyon University men’s swimming team had one last job to finish before leaving the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.  The guys wanted to win a conference title.

They almost accomplished the mission last year, but finished runner-up to Incarnate Word, which had held the crown for four consecutive years.

Over the weekend they took care of unfinished business, winning their first-ever RMAC championship.  Next year the Antelopes will move up to Division I and compete in the Western Athletic Conference.

But that’s only half the story.  GCU will depart with not one – but two – conference titles, as the women’s team picked up their second straight championship in a dominant performance that saw them run away from the competition.  The women scored 961 points, which was more than 300 points ahead of runner-up Colorado Mesa, which managed 616 points.

The men’s team finished ahead of runner-up Colorado Mesa, 886-739.

But, wait… there’s more.  Leading the way at the RMAC Championships were a couple of local athletes, a brother and sister act from Paradise Valley High School.

Michael Banning, a junior from PVHS who specializes in the freestyle and backstroke, was named the Male Swimmer of the Meet, and then added the 2013 RMAC Swimmer of the Year to his honors.  He won the 100 free in 44.26 and swam a leg of the winning 400 free relay that set a new meet record with a sizzling time of 2:57.19.

Banning had a lot of familiar company in the 100 free competition, as the ‘Lopes placed five swimmers among the top seven finishers.  And on the women’s side, GCU took the top two spots in the 100 free, with Mychala Lynch winning in 51.74 and Stacey Rudman just off the pace at 52.17.  Lynch, a senior from Xavier Prep in Phoenix, is the defending national champion in the 100 fly; she was on the 400 free relay team that successfully defended its conference title.

Jaclyn Branning joined with teammate Inha Kotsur in being named the Female Swimmers of the Meet.  Branning, a senior from PVHS who swims the breast and IM events, won the 200 breast in a time of 2:19.81.  Kotsur, who holds the RMAC meet record in the 1650  free, had little trouble winning that event with a time of 17:07.77.

Adding still another honor to the list of accomplishments over the weekend, Jack Feely won the 200 back with a time of 1:47.09 and was named the Freshman of the Year.  Big things were expected of the youngster from New Mexico, who came to the program with some impressive times in the 500 free and the 200 free.  He has already begun what should be an outstanding career at GCU.

Last year, both squads finished fifth at the NCAA Championships.  They will get a chance to improve on those marks when they head to Birmingham, Ala., to compete in this year’s season-ending competition March 6-9.

(Photo: GCU Athletics)