2008-09 Season Recap

April 3, 2009


Kansas swimming and diving’s 2008-09 season will be remembered for its nine-member senior class, sophomore Erin Mertz earning All-American status on the one-meter board, earning an 11-3 record and breaking nine school records.

Three Jayhawks qualified for the NCAA Championships including senior Maria Mayrovich, sophomore Iuliia Kuzhil and Mertz. That trio helped KU earn a 36th-place finish with 12 points at the NCAA Championships.

In the season-opener, Kansas upset No. 20 Arizona State 149-147 in Tempe, Ariz. Leading the upset for the Jayhawks was Mayrovich and junior Emily Lanteigne, both of whom won two individual freestyle events. The Jayhawk diving team showed its depth in the first event of the year with Hannah McMacken and Erin Mertz capturing first-place finishes on the one-meter and three-meter boards, respectively. Meghan Proehl placed second on the three-meter board, and third on the one-meter board as the Jayhawks scored 32 combined points in the two diving events.

“This was really big victory for our program,” Kansas head coach Clark Campbell said following the victory over Arizona State. “We capitalized in some key areas of the meet. Our divers did a tremendous job, and I thought our swimmers stepped up and had perhaps their best meet in the seven years I’ve been at Kansas. This was a great way to start the year.”

Following a dominant 193-103 victory at Northern Arizona, Kansas returned home with a top-25 ranking before its home-opening meet against Texas A&M.

Kansas fell to the ninth-ranked Texas A&M Aggies, 133-106. KU was led by senior Danielle Herrmann, who recorded a victory in the 200 yard I.M., which was a new Robinson Natatorium pool record. She followed that performance up with a 200 yard breaststroke victory. Also against the Aggies, Mertz was victorious on both the one-meter and three-meter boards.

Kansas hosted the Big 12 Relays on Oct. 24, 2008 and earned a third-place finish with 62 points. KU’s best performances came from its 4×25 freestyle relay team that placed second and its one-meter diving team that placed first.

Following a defeat to Missouri, Kansas would rattle off three-straight dominating performances against Drury, Evansville and Nebraska-Omaha before heading to the Kenyon Invitational for its final event of the fall season.

“We use the fall invitational, this year it is the Kenyon Invite, as a mid-term exam,” said Campbell prior to the Kenyon Invite. “I’ve been very pleased (with the fall). We had seven back-to-back weeks of racing. It was almost like a mini-Tour de France in swimming.”

KU performed exceptionally in its ‘mid-term exam’ as it won the Kenyon Invitational Championship with 1319 points, which was over 400 points better than second-place finisher Kenyon College. Several team season-best times were set at the Kenyon Invitational including Herrmann’s 100 yard breaststroke time of 1:02.67 and senior Ashley Leidigh’s time of 2:00.08 in the 200 yard butterfly.

Following the Kenyon Invitational, the Jayhawks would break for Christmas break. Kansas would open the second-half of the season in sunny Miami, Fla., with two duals against FIU and Miami. Kansas trounced both opponents and only lost four events total on the trip.

Kansas fell the following weekend to No. 19 Arkansas, 165-135, but rebounded with strong performances against South Dakota and Northern Iowa and against Iowa State.

Following the South Dakota and Northern Iowa meet, Mayrovich was named the Big 12 Swimmer of the Week on Jan. 28, 2009. Mayrovich won the award in large part due to her Robinson Natatorium record-breaking performance in the 100 yard freestyle.

Prior to an impressive performance at the Big 12 Championships, 18 Jayhawk swimmers and divers were named to the 2009 Academic All-Big 12 teams. Kansas had six Jayhawks nominated with perfect 4.00 grade point averages: Jessica Brozek, Anne Liggett, Amanda Maez, McMacken, Alyssa Potter and Brittany Potter. No other Big 12 team had more than three student-athletes nominated with a perfect 4.00 GPA. And for the second straight year, KU led the conference with the most members placed on the Academic All-Big 12 teams.

Kansas entered the Big 12 Championships in Columbia, Mo., hoping to set many personal-best times and break a few school records. The Jayhawks accomplished that feat en route to a fourth-place finish with 493 points.

In total, Kansas set eight new school records. Of the eight new school records, all five relays’ records were shattered. KU’s relay teams beat every previous mark by at least one full second. Kansas also set 17 new team season-best times, and only three swimming events did not have their season-best revised at the Championships. In total, Kansas had 81 swims and 69 of those resulted in new personal best times.

Sophomore Iuliia Kuzhil broke both backstroke records. Her 100 yard backstroke time of 53.63 was over 1.07 seconds faster than Jenny Short’s time in 2007. Her 200 yard backstroke time of 1:58.05 also beat Jenny Short’s time of 1:58.82.

Freshman Stephanie Payne, who did not own any team season-best performance entering the weekend, touched the wall in a time of 4:15.69 in the 400 yard I.M. That time smashed former All-American Kristin Nilsen’s time of 4:19.70 by 4.01 seconds.

The best individual performances for Kansas by place at the Big 12 Championships came from Mayrovich and Kuzhil. Mayrovich placed third in the 50 and 100 yard freestyle events. She also placed fifth in the 200 yard freestyle. Kuzhil tallied a third-place finish in the 100 yard backstroke. Other stellar individual performances came from Herrmann, Abigail Anderson and Shannon Garlie, all of whom earned sixth-place finishes.

Mayrovich and Kuzhil each earned berths at the 2009 NCAA Championships in College Station, Texas for their strong swimming performances at the Big 12 Championships. Mayrovich earned an invite to the 50, 100 and 200 yard freestyle events and Kuzhil in the 100 yard backstroke.

Mertz qualified for the NCAA Championships with a strong performance at the Zone ‘D’ Diving meet. She placed seventh on the platform and fifth on the one-meter board.

Mertz earned All-American status with her seventh place finish on the one-meter board with 298.40 points. She became the first Jayhawk to earn All-American status since Kristin Nilsen accomplished the feat in 1998 with her 15th place performance in the 200 yard breaststroke. Mertz is the first KU diver to earn the honor since Michelle Rojohn won the three-meter diving event in 1996.

“It was a great day today, and it was very exciting,” said Kansas diving coach Eric Elliott following Mertz’s impressive performance. “Erin really stepped up today and nailed almost every single one of her dives. She was very calm throughout the competition and full of confidence. We’re all very proud of her.”

The Kansas swimmers also had impressive Championship performances. Mayrovich placed 20th in the 50 yard freestyle, 21st in the 200 yard freestyle and 19th in the 100 yard freestyle. Mayrovich’s 200 yard freestyle time of 1:46.19 smashed the school record by 0.82 seconds. The previous record was set by Amy Gruber in 2005.

Kuzhil broke her own school record in the 100 yard backstroke at the Championships with a time of 53.06 seconds, which was strong enough for a 21st place finish.

Please check back with kuathletics.com for more off-season information regarding the Kansas swimming and diving team.