By Nathan Benson
Unexpected swimwear, too many second-place finishes and a sprained ankle played a part in the BYU men?s swimming and diving team?s first loss of the season Friday.
The University of Utah raced into the lead from the outset in their Fastskins, technologically advanced competition bodysuits, and beat the No. 19 Cougars 135-108.
BYU head coach Tim Powers said he didn?t expect the Utes? suits, but he didn?t use them as an excuse for his team?s sub-par showing.
?Utah was better prepared, and that?s my fault,? Powers said.
Although the Cougar men weren?t scared in their standard suits compared to their opponents? outfits, they weren?t able to win enough events to come out of Salt Lake City with an outright regular-season Mountain West Conference championship.
With tons of spectators in a packed Ute Natatorium, Utah took first place in nine of 11 swims to share their first regular season conference title in 10 years with BYU.
?You?ve got to give them credit because they came out and swam,? senior co-captain Kenny Carpenter said.
Carpenter came from behind in the last five yards to outreach Utah?s Matan Ratz to win the 200-yard freestyle, but races like that were rare for BYU.
In the 11 swimming events, the Cougars filled 21 of 33 top-three slots, indicative of a complete team effort, but when a first-place finish results in nine points opposed to four points for second place, the BYU loss is easy to figure out.
The Cougars placed second and third in eight events, but Utah always seemed to have an elusive swimmer at the front of the pack.
Missing from the group of individual winners was sophomore Mark Chay, who has been nursing a sprained ankle for two weeks. The two-time Olympian from Singapore re-injured his ankle on a turn during the 200 individual medley and dropped to an unfamiliar fourth place.
Chay?s night appeared over as he iced his ankle and limped on the sideline, but he made a surprising appearance in the 500-yard freestyle less than one hour after his first race.
The team leader gave a stellar performance, leading through the first 13 laps. He fell behind and ended up in second place, but the fact that he was in the pool again was enough to impress his teammates.
?If you?re a competitor you have to swim through these things,? Carpenter said of Chay.
Powers said he thought the meet was more important to the Utes than to BYU, but he still took a positive slant on his team finishing 3-1 in the MWC.
?I think we learned a lesson,? Powers said. ?This will be good for us as we go into the conference championships.?
The Cougars? main season goal is to win the four-day MWC Championships later this month in Oklahoma City. BYU will now shift all focus to defending their five-year win streak at the conference event.