Rice swimming was the last of the Owls’ teams to compete this spring, ending their season with a top five finish at a truncated CSCAA National College Invitational.
On a Tuesday evening in March Rice swimming flew from Houston to Cleveland to compete in the CSCAA National College Invitational. Coronavirus concerns had put some on edge, but the team hadn’t fully come to terms with the breadth and the pace of the problem at that time.
Still, the meet began as scheduled on Thursday, March 12. Although swimmers were in and out of the water as usual, the air in the Busbey Natatorium was flat. Rice swimming head coach Set Huston characterized the atmosphere as “distracted”, something he doesn’t ever really associated with his team.
To the contrary, Huston called the continued maturity of his team the defining achievement of the Owls’ season. He cited the teams’ resiliency through adversity and their ability to compete “anytime, anywhere, any place”. That growing resolve was put on display during the invitational.
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The swimmers were in the middle of their preliminary events when conferences around the country began canceling their basketball championships. The NBA had been shut down the night prior. Still, they swam on. Some teams pulled out between prelims and finals. As long as city of Cleveland and the hosting school Cleveland State deemed it permissible to compete, the Owls would press on.
As the final swims were beginning that night, teams were notified this would be the last day of the invitational. It too, like all other major sporting events around the world, had been tabled by the coronavirus pandemic.
Even with the world coming to a halt around them, Rice swimming competed to the very end. The Owls’ finished fifth place out of 33 teams, taking home silver medals in the 50-yard freestyle swam by Kate Nezelek and the team sprint relay. Rice has now placed in the top five in every appearance at the invitation, starting with the inaugural 2014 meet which the Owls won.
There were several impressive results along the way. Huston is particularly proud of his team’s sweep at the Dual-A-Palooza. A two-day event in which Rice topped Denver, Tulane and eventual C-USA Champion FIU. By and large, it was a successful season, and one that lasted longer than most every other collegiate season around the country.
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