Florida International U

FIU Panthers women capture C-USA swimming title

As FIU President Mark Rosenberg, the pep band, senior associate athletic directors Bobby Staub and Julie Berg, some students and other FIU athletes waited to welcome the Conference USA women’s champion swimming and diving team back to campus Sunday, FIU long-timers reached for perspective.

They recalled that in 2010 head swimming coach Randy Horner came into a program completely uncompetitive in the lightly regarded Sun Belt Conference. FIU hadn’t had a swimmer or relay finish in the top two in any event at the conference meet since 2007. Diving tended to be confined to a single strong performer each year.

Contrast that with the team that won the Conference USA meet in Knoxville, Tennessee, by 103.5 points over two-time defending champion Rice, ranked No. 6 among mid-majors by CollegeSwimming.com.

FIU won six individual swimming events — three by senior and conference Swimmer of the Year Johanna Gustafsdottir, two by freshman Silvia Scalia and one by freshman Letizia Bertelli — and the 400 freestyle relay of Scalia, freshman Paulina Zelazna, sophomore Jenny Deist and Gustafsdottir. When the conference’s best diver all season, freshman Rebecca Quesnel, couldn’t dive after sustaining a concussion at the Canadian Nationals two weeks ago, sophomore Lily Kaufmann took first in platform diving, second in the 1-meter event and third in the 3-meter event.

“I’m very proud of the team and the seniors who believed in us and signed with us when we didn’t have much to believe in,” Horner said Saturday night. “I’m also thankful for the girls who were here and helped change the culture.”

An emotional Gustafsdottir said Saturday, “Amazing, I don’t have words. Such a great experience. We were joking about coming from the bottom and now we’re here at the top. It shows how great our coaching staff is and how far you can come as a team in three years.”