FGCU celebrates historical 26th-place finish at the NCAA national championships

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The Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team wasn’t the only FGCU sport making historical moves this week. After an impressive season, the FGCU women’s swimming and diving team made waves in the NCAA Swimming Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, earning a first-ever No. 26 overall ranking in the championships.

“We just keep trying to move things forward every year and every day,” Coach Neal Studd said mentioning the 26th overall standing in comparison to last year’s 32nd overall team finish. “Everyone is very happy to be … I think the girls wanted to be faster, but it’s still good.”

After qualifying four relays — a rarity for any mid-major program — for the first time in program history, as well as three swimmers qualifying in seven total individual events at the Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association (CCSA) Conference championships last month, the Eagles ended the weekend with a program-best performance.

The 200-yard medley relay team, consisting of Kira Toussaint, Katie Armitage, Emma Svensson and Kristin Julien, picked up 22 points with an eighth place finish at the NCAA ‘A’ cut final Friday night with a time of 1:37.55.

The time beats both the Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association and FGCU’s program record.

In the individual events, Toussaint finished in eighth place in the 100-yard backstroke with a 52.92 time. Toussaint’s finish contributed 11 points to FGCU’s 37.5 total points after day two.

Svensson, who was FGCU’s first-ever swimmer in the NCAA in 2012, earned a 12th-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle final with a time of 22.12. Svensson’s finish puts 4.5 points on the board for FGCU.

“I feel great,” Svensson said after her race on Friday, “Racing tonight was lots of fun and the atmosphere was crazy. The 50 free is always a tight race, which makes it so exciting! Now I just want to refocus and swim the best time with the 200 medley and 100 fly individual tomorrow.”

Although both the 200-yard freestyle and 400-yard medley relays didn’t qualify for the finals, the results were nothing short of impressive.

“We did pretty good this morning,” Studd said. “We got to see our first-ever relay in the NCAA, so that was exciting. The relays’ finishes were a happy surprise.”

The 400-yard medley, consisting of Svensson, Toussaint, Armitage and Yee Wong, finished in 21st place ahead of every Florida school in attendance, including rival No. 6 University of Florida. The relay also finished before any other mid-major school.

Toussaint also finished with a fifth-best time of all the backstrokers in the relay

“It’s a rat race and every team has a chance in the finals,” Svensson said. “We were only about a second away from making it back and all had good swims. It was a new and fun experience to race with a team. Being the top mid-major is great, but we will definitely be in fight for the spot in tomorrow’s final.”

The 200-yard freestyle relay team, consisting of Svensson, Toussaint, Kristin Julien and Rebecca Derogatis was second of all mid-major schools with a time of 1:30.09.

The Eagles held the 19th overall rank, until about 10 p.m. Saturday night when the diving results were added into team scores.