Dan Kukla

The Miami women’s swim team ranks No. 1 in the CSCAA/collegeswimming.com Mid-Major Division I rankings and has only one loss this season.

In just three days at the pool, the Miami University women’s swim team set 16 records.

Miami is ranked No. 1 in the CSCAA/CollegeSwimming.com Mid-Major Division I rankings, and proved why this weekend.

Cheered on by their fathers decked out with wigs, custom T-shirts and noisemakers, the RedHawks cruised to nearly a 1,000-point victory in 15th annual Miami Invitational against eight other teams.

Two MAC records and 14 Miami records fell in the process. Men’s senior diver Chris Heat joined in the record breaking party as well, setting the MAC record in the three-meter diving event Saturday.

Senior Malarie Schmidt led the way for the Red and White. She broke MAC records in the 100-yard backstroke and 400 medley relay, and four other Miami marks in relay events.

“Malarie works so hard and deserves it so much,” senior Allison Stevens said. “This is her breakout weekend of her career.”

Stevens swam an impressive weekend of her own. In the 200-yard freestyle, she set a Miami record for the second-time in 10 hours, sprinting to a clocking of 1:48.66 and bettering her record time from Friday morning by :00.12.

She had previously set the record at last season’s MAC Championship Meet.

Stevens was also a part of the 800-meter freestyle relay team that led from start to finish en route to breaking the school record by more than 10 seconds with a time of 7:17.42. The swim is the best by any Mid-American Conference team this season and ranks ninth best among all NCAA times. It also gives the RedHawks a 2009 NCAA Championship “B” qualifying standard.

“It was awesome,” Stevens said of her record breaking performances. “Absolutely one of the most amazing athletic experiences I’ve ever had. It was one of the best moments of my life.”

Schmidt and Stevens are members of a strong senior class that is leading their RedHawks squad to new heights. Head coach Dave Jennings knows how special these two athletes are and the central role they play in his team’s success.

“Malarie is determined to end her senior year on a positive note and is swimming up to her potential,” Jennings said. “Allison is the cornerstone of this program. She gets better and better every day.”

Both Schmidt and Stevens credited their success to the support of their teammates. In and out of the pool, this team strives to always be there for one another. Whenever a Miami swimmer was in the pool, members of this “sisterhood” lined the water, emphatically cheering them on.

“We’re such a close team with great team chemistry,” Schmidt said. “We feed off each other’s races. When one of us is in the water, everyone else makes sure that they can always see a teammate whenever they look up.”

The support these girls provide one another extends well beyond the pool. When Schmidt and Stevens aren’t smashing copious conference and school records, they are serving their team as senior leaders at practice, home and in class.

“Sometimes you gather an absolutely fantastic group of girls that care so much about each other, just as much if not more than themselves,” Stevens said. “You can’t force it. It just happens.”

The Miami Invitational is Miami’s only multi-day meet with both preliminaries and finals before the championships.

Men’s head coach Pete Lindsay said that the meet is a key step to winning a conference title; during the weekend he observers how each of his swimmers cools down, how they handle the day-to-day competition and who his best night swimmers are.

All the while he is trying to find the optimal combination of swimmers for each relay.

“I want to see who’s got a fire in their belly,” Lindsay said.

The Miami men placed third in the weekend’s meet.

While his team didn’t reach the same level of success as the women, he said that didn’t stop them from sharing in the victory.

“When we see the excitement of the women doing well it’s contagious,” Lindsay said. “It gets the whole environment pumped up.”

The women’s team is now 7-1 on the season with its only loss coming to Louisville in a tri-meet to start the season.

Miami’s next challenge is an away meet against the University of Cincinnati, followed by a home conference meet against archrival Ohio University. The RedHawks hope to use their success from the Miami Invitational to propel them on to more victories throughout the season.

“We made a stand,” Stevens said, “both in the MAC and nationally.”