GREENSBORO, N.C. – The Florida State women’s swimming and diving teams captured four medals including one gold on Friday night of the 2018 ACC Championships at the Greensboro Aquatics Center.
Senior Natalie Pierce won the 100 breast with a time of 59.71 after her classmate Tayla Lovemore took home bronze in the 100 fly at 51.85.
“Natalie and Tayla were both superb tonight,” FSU head coach Neal Studd said. “Natalie winning as the favorite and handling that pressure then Tayla after a great bronze medal-winning performance comes back and drops a 50.5 split to help the ladies to a new relay school record. It was awesome.”
Sophomore Molly Carlson battled back from an injury this season to finish third on 3-meter before the 400 medley relay set a new school record at 3:32.80 for bronze.
Pierce was in control during her prelim swim, touching right on her seed time at 59.36 as she was the only athlete under the one-minute barrier in the morning.
The Birmingham, Mich. native fell behind Lina Rathsack from Pitt and Caroline Hauder of North Carolina on the first 50 yards in finals, but on the back half of the race, Pierce fought back all the way down to the wire and out-touched Rathsack by one one-hundredth of a second, claiming the title at 59.71.
“I just kept fighting and I kept my head down,” Pierce said. “I heard my teammates cheering for me and I am just really happy about my race.”
Pierce ends a three-year drought of FSU topping the podium in a swimming event. She also became the 10th Seminole in school history to win the 100 breast and first since 2007.
Lovemore posted a time of 51.68, which was just eight one-hundredths off her school record in prelims. In finals working out of lane four, she took the lead into the back half of the race, however she finished in third with a time of 51.85.
Sophomore Ayla Bonniwell joined Carlson in the final as the pair were seeded third and fourth respectively out of prelims behind two divers from Miami.
Carlson was solid throughout finals, scoring five of her six dives above the 50-point barrier and only fell as low as fourth in the round.
The Toronto, Ont., native hit her two biggest dives in the fourth and fifth rounds when she needed it most. Her back 2 ½ somersault tuck went for 58.58 points after marks of 6.5-7.5. She followed that with her best dive of the night, scoring 68.60 on her reverse 2 ½ somersault tuck.
Bonniwell had to climb up the ranks in finals after falling to eighth place after her second dive. The Ithaca, N.Y., native made her move in the fifth round after she received marks of 7.0-8.0 for a total of 63.80 on her reverse 1 ½ somersault with 2 ½ free twists. She finished finals with another big score of 60.80 behind a back 1 ½ somersault and 1 ½ free twists for a total of 314.95.
“Molly and Ayla dove very well today,” FSU head diving coach John Proctor said. “They’re both are tough competitors and after just missing out on the 1-meter final they gave it everything today and I am very proud of them.”
Freshman Madeline Cohen, Pierce, Lovemore and freshman Emma Terebo teamed up for the 400 medley relay as Pierce and Lovemore pulled the Noles within striking distance by tuning in the fastest breast and fly splits in the field. Terebo held on, claiming the first relay medal for FSU since 2014.
Despite a sluggish start to the meet on Wednesday and Thursday, the Seminoles stepped up in Friday’s prelims with 10 individuals advancing to finals including the top two swimmers in both the 100 fly and 100 breast behind Lovemore and Pierce.
“We gave a great effort today,” Studd said. “They came out ready and they executed. A great team day for us in the pool and on the boards. I’m very proud.”
In addition to Lovemore in the 100 fly, freshman Elise Olsen qualified for the consolation final after a prelim swim of 53.12 in 12th place while junior Leila Johnston swam the fastest time of her career at 54.14 to advance to the C final.
Olsen made a late charge in order to win the B final, touching with a time of 52.37 while Johnston placed fourth in the C final at 54.24.
Juniors Meg Brown and Shelly Drozda represented the Noles in bonus heat of the 400 IM as Brown (4:18.33) was 21st in prelims, while Drozda grabbed the last scoring spot in 24th (4:19.24).
In finals, Brown utilized her strengths and went out for the early lead and held on to win the heat, touching at 4:14.60. Drozda used the backstroke leg make up some ground on Brown and would finish in sixth place behind a personal best swim at 4:16.54, which is the sixth fastest in school history.
Junior Natalie Purnell qualified for the B final of the 100 breast at 1:01.77 after competing in the 400 IM earlier in the session, however at finals she was disqualified for an illegal butterfly kick.
The Seminoles had three swimmers make finals in the 100 back, led by Terebo in the B final. She took the last spot in the consolation behind her best time, qualifying in 16th place at 53.43. The B final was dead even across all eight lanes until the final 10 yards as Terebo moved up to take 15th at 53.62.
Senior Ariel Barber turned in her personal best in prelims at 53.58 for 19th, while Cohen was 21st at 53.64. At night, Cohen went faster, touching at 53.41 to hold her place, while Barber touched with the same time of 53.58 for 23rd.
Terebo’s prelim time of 53.43 jumps her up to fifth all-time while Barber is seventh at 53.58.
Saturday’s prelims will start at 10 a.m. with the 200 back, 100 free, 200 breast and 200 back with prelims of both men’s (11:15 a.m.) and women’s (2:30 p.m.) platform following. The 1650 finals will begin at 4 p.m. and finals following at 6 p.m.
Florida State is in eighth place with a total of 412.5. For more information, visit Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.