CMU men keep it close at RMACs

Entering Day 3 of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference swimming championships, the Colorado Mesa University men’s team was fully immersed in an underdog story.

Trailing Division II juggernaut Grand Canyon by six points Friday night at El Pomar Natatorium, the Mavericks had emotional momentum from a strong Day 2 performance, but they were significantly outnumbered in the finals. Grand Canyon, leaving the RMAC for Division I in 2014, had more than 75 placements in finals during the first three days.

CMU coach Ron Allen knew it was a matter of quality over quantity for the Mavericks, and even if they finish second to Grand Canyon, it would be a big step forward for his program.

“We never really had it in our heads that we would beat (Grand Canyon),” Allen said. “Looking at the heat sheets, we knew this was going to be a big day for them. We used it as a motivating factor today, and if we can stay in front of Incarnate Word, I think we would be ... great.”

After Day 3, CMU’s men’s and women’s teams remain in second place behind Grand Canyon. The women are down 661-454, and the men trail 595-498.

With men’s three-meter diving taking place on Day 4, the CMU men are still within striking distance. The trio of Brock Martin, Ryan Popp and Austin Fahrenholtz finished first, second and third, respectively, in the men’s one-meter diving during Day 2.

“We just need to maintain that emotional level and keep pushing the way I want them to,” Allen said.

For the Maverick women, Kelly Hogan made another “B” cut in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1 minute, 54.45 seconds. “B” cut qualifiers are used to fill out the top 16 swimmers at the NCAA national championships after all “A” cut qualifiers secure placement.

Briana Purkapile finished fourth in the 400 individual medley for her second top-five medley finish during the RMAC championships.

Amanda Jennings and Savannah Craft finished second and third in the women’s one-meter diving as CMU has dominated diving. Combining the men and women, the Mavericks have seven top-three finishes across three diving events.

CMU’s women’s and men’s 800 freestyle relay teams finished second behind Grand Canyon.

For the men, Mehdi El Hazzaz finished third in the 200 freestyle for the Mavericks and is seeded seventh for the 100 freestyle preliminaries this morning.

“We’re racing against one of the best universities in all of the U.S.,” El Hazzaz said. “Racing against competition like this really pushes your limits sometimes. A few of these guys are even national champions.”

Allen said a strong finish in the RMAC championships, regardless of how many swimmers qualify for nationals, will help with recruiting in the offseason. Grand Canyon and the University of The Incarnate Word leaving the RMAC will give Colorado Mesa pole position heading into next year.

“Our position in the RMAC championships is fortunate and great, especially for recruiting,” Allen said. “It shows that what we’ve introduced this year is working, and with these facilities and this location it’s hard to beat.”

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