Jayhawks Look for Breakout Weekend in the Water

Oct. 20, 2011 Coach Campbell previews the weekend meets

LAWRENCE, Kan. — The Kansas Swimming and Diving Team will look to notch its first victory of the year when it competes in two dual meets in as many days this weekend in Minnesota and Iowa. Kansas (0-1) on the season will travel to Minneapolis for their meet with the Golden Gophers on Friday and then will go 200 miles south to Cedar Falls to take on Northern Iowa and North Dakota for their first double-dual meet of the season.

“This is something that we do each semester because championship meets are back-to-back,” said head coach Clark Campbell. “So getting this opportunity to race two days in a row really helps simulate the Missouri invite in the fall and then the Big 12 and NCAA Championships in the spring.”

Kansas is coming off their first meet of the year at Arizona, where despite a loss, a number of swimmers started to build upon what could be stellar seasons. Senior captain Stephanie Payne finished in first place in the 200 IM, while juniors Brooke Brull and Vanessa Hanbury were the fastest KU swimmers in a combined four events. Freshman Deanna Marks also has left an impression on her new coach.

“Stephanie (Payne), Brooke (Brull) and Deanna (Marks) have all been doing a wonderful job from the get go, so we need to keep them heading down that road,” Campbell said. “It is now time though for the rest of the team to start getting into race mode.”

On the boards, diving coach Eric Elliott is seeing some improvements from his two athletes, and is looking forward to the weekend.

“The girls have been diving great and I hope it carries over when we travel,” Elliott said. “We are also working on some new dives and look forward to getting in some good training while we are there.”

For the Jayhawks, both Northern Iowa and North Dakota are return opponents to this year’s schedule as KU defeated those schools in separate meets last season. The Golden Gophers however are a new addition to this season’s slate.

Minnesota enters the meet on Friday having won their first two dual-meets of the season. At 2-0, they defeated conference rival Michigan, 200-150 and Big 12 opponent Iowa State, 199-100.

“Minnesota is a very good, top 10 team,” Campbell said. “Last year they had two national champions, so they are very strong, especially in breaststroke, middle distance and distance freestyle as well as diving. They are a formidable opponent.”

The Gophers have a relatively young squad and their freshman class is coming off a breakthrough meet against the Cyclones, claiming seven of the team’s 13 event victories. Seniors Ashley Steenvoorden, Lissa Tommerdahl, Melissa Nelson and Marissa Davies lead the way in the freestyle events, while fellow seniors Kristen Steenvoorden and Cory Miller provide depth for the individual medley.

After Friday’s meet, Kansas will turn their attention to North Dakota and Northern Iowa, who they went a combined 2-0 against last season. KU defeated North Dakota 195-119, in a double-dual last November at home, while they swam past Northern Iowa 161-91, two months later at another double-dual inside Robinson Natatorium.

“Northern Iowa and North Dakota are going to both bring their ‘A’ game,” Campbell said. “Before I was at Kansas, I coached at Evansville (Indiana), and when we had the opportunity to swim against bigger Division I universities, it got us excited. Because of that it is going to be very important for our athletes to be ready to go and at a high-level on Saturday.”

Northern Iowa enters the weekend double-dual also searching for their first victory of the young season as they dropped a meet against Iowa State 214-86, back on Oct. 8th. The Panthers are a very young team, with 24 of their 29 athletes being underclassmen. UNI is led by senior Chelsea Hartman and junior Stephanie Frederick in the freestyle events. Heading up the backstroking corps are juniors Jessa Kukral and Jody Peterson, while fellow juniors Sarah Heeden and Bethany Olson lead the team in the breaststroke and diving events respectively.

Kansas’ second opponent Saturday, North Dakota is 1-0 after their opening meet victory against in-state rival South Dakota 178-128, last weekend. The Fighting Sioux are led by seniors Samantha Simon and Brittany Schmidt in the freestyle events, while fellow seniors Caitlin Conci and Katelyn Johnson head up the butterfly and individual medley events. Megan Keidel is the lone senior diver on the squad.

“Northern Iowa has several swimmers that are from this area (Kansas & Missouri), so we know their squad pretty well,” Campbell said. “North Dakota is a little bit more of a wildcard because we don’t know them as well. Both are up and coming programs though and it is going to be a real test.”

Log onto kuathletics.com for all the post meet results, interviews and recaps throughout the weekend.