The Saddleback women's swim & dive team battled to a third place finish at the Orange Empire Conference Meet on Friday at the Saddleback Aquatics Center. The Gauchos won four events while challenging against some of the top competition in the state.
Saddleback knew when they hit the pool on Friday that they were up against some of the better swimmers in the state. Teams from the Orange Empire Conference have won 23 of the last 34 state titles, with Orange Coast College winning 18 state titles of their own.
Saddleback had another solid showing this week in finishing third, one spot ahead of perennial power Golden West College. The Gauchos had wins from Amber Theders, Kailey Banayat and Sarah Duke with a number of other solid performances along the way.
Theders was the first to win for Saddleback, capturing the top spot in the 500 Freestyle. Theders led the entire way in holding off Cypress College swimmer Kayleen Bretz and touching the pad in 5:32.10. It was just over a second faster than her time last week when she finished second at the Golden West Invitational. She then backed up the performance with a second place finish in the 1,650 Freestyle event (19:20.14), which was a top-10 finish in program history. Theders would also finish sixth in the 200 Butterfly (2:37.82).
Banayat was next to win when she captured the title in the 200 Backstroke with a blazing time of 2:22.71. She was over a second faster than her closest competitor and it put her in the top-5 in program history. Banayat would also finish fifth in the 100 Backstroke (1:05.75) and sixth in the 50 Freestyle (27.33).
The final two wins were turned in Duke, who captured first place in both the 1-meter and 3-meter diving competition. Duke scored 253.65 points in the 1-meter dive while scoring 249.30 in the 3-meter dive competition.
Saddleback will have a few weeks off before getting back in the water at Riverside City College on March 23.