PITTSBURGH – Freshman Morgan Bullock
won three races as the West Virginia University swimming and diving team opened the final month of the regular season with a loss at Pitt on Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh.
Bullock won all three individual events she raced in against the Panthers, while sophomore Merwane El Merini
added two individual victories in the annual Backyard Brawl. The WVU women fell 205.5-94.5, while the men lost 214-86.
Bullock’s victories came in the 200 butterfly, where the Mountaineers swept the top three finishes, the 100 butterfly and the 200 individual medley. El Merini posted wins in the 50 and 100 freestyle.
“I thought we had some very solid efforts today but as a team we didn't compete at the level I know we are capable of,” WVU coach Vic Riggs said. “We'll need to take a look at that this week to make sure we're ready for our next meet. Congrats to Coach (John) Hargis and his team, they had a very strong meet.
“With that said, we had several individuals step up in a big way. For the women, Emma Skelley
, MacKenzie (Braden), Amelie (Currat) and Julia (Miranda) all had great meets. As did Trayton (Saladin), Drew (Damich), James (Koval) and Sam (Neaveill) for the men. Our meet was highlighted by Morgan and Merwane, who both won all their individual events.
In addition to Bullock and El Merini’s wins, the Mountaineers recorded two scores that rank in the top five in program history. In the 1,000 freestyle, freshman Trayton Saladin
’s 9:32.27 was the fourth-fastest time in program history and good for a runner-up finish against Pitt. In the same event, junior James Koval
tied his own fifth-best mark in the WVU record books with a 9:35.34, placing fifth.
“It's never easy losing, but considering our youth and how well they did, I'm confident we'll get better each meet this month as we did this fall,” Riggs added.
Saturday’s Backyard Brawl began on springboard, with the women on 1-meter and the men on 3-meter. Junior Alex Obendorf
led the way for the Mountaineers, with a second-place finish thanks to a 308.40 on 3-meter. On 1-meter, sophomore Averly Hobbs
was fifth with a 241.05.
In the pool, the 200 medley relay kicked things off, where the Mountaineers placed third in both events. The men earned a 1:33.36 in a tightly-contested race for the top three spots, where the top three teams finished within 0.33 seconds of each other. The women touched the wall in 1:47.80.
WVU got off to a good start in individual events in the 1,000 freestyle, highlighted by a pair of top-10 swims in program history for the men. Saladin finished second with a 9:32.27, good for the fourth-fastest time in WVU history. Koval touched the wall in 9:35.34, fifth-fastest in team history to place fifth overall. For the women, senior Emma Skelley
got things started with a second-place finish, touching the wall in 10:04.09.
Skelley added a third-place finish in the 200 freestyle with a 1:53.84, and sophomore Drew Damich
posted a 1:41.25 to place third for the men.
Freshman Julia Miranda
earned a second-place finish in the 100 backstroke with a 56.59. She was followed by junior teammate Amelie Currat
, who’s 57.66 was good for third. In the men’s event, sophomore Jake Williams
was third with a season-best time of 51.74.
The Mountaineers dominated the women’s 200 butterfly, posting a 1-2-3 finish. Bullock won the event with a 2:03.13, followed by sophomore teammate Morgan Carr
in second with a 2:04.67 and senior Mackenzie Braden
, who was third with a 2:07.26. Freshman Gabe Swardson
paced the men’s team with a 1:51.83 to finish third.
El Merini followed with a win in the 50 freestyle, touching the wall in 20.41.
The second round of diving was next, with the women on 3-meter. Hobbs led West Virginia, placing third with a 264.75.
El Merini continued his winning ways in the 100 freestyle, posting a 45.70 to win his second event. Damich added a third-place finish with a 46.36.
Sophomore Emma Harris
earned a second-place finish in the 200 breaststroke, touching the wall in 2:21.15. For the men, Saladin was third with a 1:52.81.
The WVU women posted its second consecutive runner-up finish, thanks to Skelley in the 500 freestyle. The senior posted a 5:00.19.
Bullock kept things going strong for the women’s squad, winning her second event of the day with a 55.78 in the 100 butterfly. Miranda added a third-place finish with a 57.16. For the men, Saladin recorded a 4:38.65 to finish third.
The men’s 1-meter springboard was next, where junior Michael Proietto
placed second with a personal-best score of 337.95. Obendorf was fourth with a 298.43.
“It was a good meet for the divers today,” diving coach Michael Grapner said. “They have been training hard and I could see much of their hard work paying off. Pitt is a tough team and always competitive for the divers. This sets us up nicely for our next meet against TCU. Mike Proietto did very well on 1-meter today, achieving a new personal-best score.”
Individual events concluded with the 200 individual medley, and again it was Bullock leading the charge, taking her third victory of the day. She swam a 2:05.78 to cap a strong day individually.
The meet wrapped up with the 400 freestyle relay. The men finished second in 3:04.42, while the women were third in 3:34.05.
West Virginia returns home for a Senior Day matchup against Big 12 rival TCU on Saturday, January 14. WVU’s final home meet of the season will begin at 11 a.m. ET at the WVU Natatorium.