Jayhawks Head Home from Big 12 Swimming/Diving Championships with Heads Held High
Feb. 27, 2011
Underclassmen and seniors combine for a strong fourth place finish to hold off Nebraska Big 12 Swimming and Diving Championships in Austin.
There was a sense of accomplishment among KU Head Coach Clark Campbell’s squad as it competed in the ‘Last Chance Meet’ Sunday at the Jamail Texas Swimming Center in Austin. That’s because his Jayhawks put a grand total of 409.5 points on the board, which was their second-highest point total in the past three years, only missing the 416 they accumulated at last year’s Big 12 Championships in College Station by 6.5 points.
“In swimming you want to perform well at the end and we definitely did that,” said KU head coach Clark Campbell. “We had numerous best times and a lot of NCAA considerations.”
“I think we came together really well over the past few days,” said junior Stephanie Payne. “Without the support of each other, I don’t think we could have finished the way we did.”
Campbell’s senior class had a rather stellar final showing at their conference championships. Joy Bunting led the way by finishing seventh in the 400-yard IM (4:17.86), ninth in the 200-yard IM (200.70) and 11th in the 200-yard butterfly (2:02.69).
“It means a lot (to finish strong) especially senior year,” Bunting said. “I’m happy I was able to go out represent Kansas well and have fun in the process.”
Bunting was joined by fellow senior Iuliia Kuzhil who placed ninth in the 100-yard backstroke (53.64) and ninth again in the 200-yard backstroke (1:55.44). Not to be outdone by her final-year counter parts senior Amanda Maez had a Big 12 Championship to remember finishing with a 1:55.64 time in the 200-yard freestyle a 23.79 time in the 50-yard freestyle and 51.71 in the 100-yard free style.
KU’s Potter sisters also finished off their Big 12 career strong with Brittany placing 10th in the 200-yard butterfly (2:02.20) and Alyssa right behind her in 12th in that same event with a time of 2:03.03.
“All five of the seniors have meant so much to us,” Campbell said. “They are wonderful leaders and inspirational people on the team that work hard and in the pool and the classroom.”
While the Jayhawks will say ‘so long’ to their senior class, they have a lot to build upon heading into next season based off of their underclassmen’s performance this past weekend in Austin.
In total 10-different Kansas freshman and sophomores finished 15th place or higher a total of 17-times, which was a large reason why they were able to push past Nebraska and hold onto fourth place.
“We have got a really good nucleus,” Campbell added. “We are really young and we only graduate five so most of them are coming back and he have a very good opportunity to be even better next year.”
Those young crop of Jayhawks were led by freshman Alison Lusk who set a new school record in the 200-yard breast stroke not once, but twice. Her 2:15.26 in the preliminaries on Day #4 eclipsed the previous school record of 2:15:30 set by Danielle Herman, but it was her 2:14.57 during the finals Saturday night that will be considered the new school standard in that event.
“It’s definitely exciting to break a school record, especially freshman year,” Lusk said. “What’s nice about it, is it (the old school record) was Danielle Herman’s old record and she still trains with us all the time, so it makes it that much more special because I race her every day in practice.”
The Chattanooga, Tenn. native finished seventh overall in the 200-yard backstroke and 10th in the 100-yard breast stroke with a time of 1:02.89.
Sophomore Monica Johannessen also had a stellar conference championship, placing 10th in the 100-yard butterfly (54.31) and 11th in the 100-yard freestyle (50.40)
Not to be outdone by Lusk and Johannessen, freshman Morgan Sharp has a lot to build on, looking ahead toward next year’s Big 12 Championships as she finished 10th in the 200-yard freestyle (1:49.09), 12th in the 500-yard freestyle (4:49.63) and 14th in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 51.17. Sharp as well as fellow first year swimmer Malia Johnson made a definite ‘splash’ at this year’s Big 12 Championships. Johnson racked up an eighth place finish in the finals of the 200-yard butterfly on Day #4 with a time of (2:00.41). She also placed 14th in the 500-yard freestyle (4:53.18) and 16th in the 100-yard butterfly (55.82).
Freshman Alison Moffit and sophomore Rebecca Swank will also head back to Lawrence pleased with their respective performances. Moffit placed ninth in the 400-yard IM (4:19.87) and 12th in the 1650-yard freestyle with a time of 16:58.50. Swank claims the single highest finish by any individual Jayhawk with her fifth place standing in the 1650-yard free style on Saturday with a time of 16:34.73. She also finished in 13th place in the 500-yard freestyle during Thursday competition.
On the diving side of things, sophomore Christy Cash had her moment on the platform finishing eight in preliminaries on Saturday with a 221.45 score and seventh overall in the finals with a score of 225.60, both of which shattered her previous life-time best score of 209.85.
“I am extremely proud of her,” said diving coach Eric Elliott. “Tower is one of her best events so I knew she could just put it together and she would have a shot at getting into the finals.”
“I have not really had a best time in that event since about my sophomore year of high school,” the now college sophomore said. “So it was really excited for me to get back to where I was and to be doing even better.”
Cash also placed 17th in the one meter diving event with a score of 224.45.
Despite their underclassmen’s performance, the story of the championships for the Jayhawks however, has to be the performance of junior Stephanie who broke three school records in two days. Payne swam to a 4:12.18 time in the preliminaries of the 400-yard IM Friday and then eclipsed that a matter of hours later in the finals with a 4:11.94 finish, good enough for fourth place overall.
“Stephanie’s 400 IM was a definitely special,” KU Head Coach Clark Campbell said. “It was a really good way to kick off the session.”
Payne’s record breaking streak would not end there as she surpassed another school high water mark, earning a time of 1:59.07 in the 200-yard butterfly during day four of the preliminaries which bested the previous KU school record of 1:59.78, set back in 1983. She would finish seventh overall in that event during the finals later that night.
“I feel pretty happy and tired,” Payne said after her race. “This is one Big 12 Championship that I won’t forget.”
Payne and the rest of her teammates will await word from the NCAA’s this Wednesday to see if they qualify for nationals, also to be held at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center in Austin.
Below is a look at the how the Jayhawks did as a team during the four day event.
FINAL BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (Day 4)
2-Texas A&M (931.0)
6-Iowa State (176.0)
STANDINGS THROUGH DAY 3
1-Texas A&M (635.0)
6-Iowa State (109.0)
STANDINGS THROUGH DAY 2
1-Texas A&M (336.0)
6-Iowa State (89.0)
STANDINGS THROUGH DAY 1
1-Texas/Texas A&M (74.0)
6-Iowa State (52.0)