To say Randy Horner’s performed magic with the FIU swimming & diving program fits after FIU completed a hat trick of consecutive Conference USA titles Saturday night.
A former FIU swimmer once described the program Horner took over in 2010 as “a glorified high school program.” Weak-to-mediocre as Sun Belt Conference swimming was, FIU hadn’t had an all-conference swimmer (swimmer or relay team finishing in the top two at the conference meet) in three years.
Now, the water Panthers have won their third consecutive championship in a better conference, the second straight crowning in wire-to-wire blowout fashion. FIU took the lead from Wednesday’s first two events with wins in the 200 medley relay (Naomi Ruele, Carita Luukkanen, Letizia Bertelli, Jenny Diest, school record 1:38.18) and the 800 freestyle relay (Skye Carey, Megan Bowen, Berta Triola, Kyna Pereira, school record 7:09.02) and continued stretching it until they won by 173.5 points over CUSA’s former swim queens from Rice.
FIU’s 922.5 points were the fourth most in meet history. Competitively, this meet ended Friday.
Periera took CUSA Swimmer of the Meet honors after piling up gold medals from that relay, the 500 free (defended her title in 4:47.45), 200 free (1:46.16) and 1650 free (16:27.48). In the 400 free relay time trial, Bertelli, Marie Lauridsen, Ruele and Deist blew out to a 3:15.23 to make the NCAA Championships A cut, the first relay team in school history to do so. Horner was named CUSA Coach of the Year for the third time.
Bertelli was named to the In-Touch Credit Union Conference USA Swimming & Diving All-Academic Team. Oh, yeah, under Horner, the swimming team’s also annually near or at the top of FIU athletics’ academic team standings.