Field set for inaugural CSCAA National Collegiate Open Water Championship

Women’s 5K Start List (.pdf)Men’s 5K Start List (.pdf)
Course Map (.pdf)Parking/Spectator Map (.pdf)
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Out of all the numbers – 72 total athletes from schools spanning five different time zones and three different NCAA divisions – the smallest of digits, one, looms largest. Kansas swimming will be part of a historical event when it hosts the first ever College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) National Collegiate Open Water Championship at Lone Star Lake outside Lawrence Saturday.
Another significant number is the distance covered during two races, a 5,000-meter swim (roughly 3.1 miles) by the women at 8:30 a.m., and by the men at 10 a.m. One individual from each race will be crowned a CSCAA national champion and teams of three will compete for a team title. Saturday’s event will be the culmination of hard work by Kansas Athletics, the CSCAA and Douglas County to turn an idea to introduce open water swimming to the collegiate ranks into a national event.
“Getting open water swimming into collegiate competition has always been a goal. Now is an opportunity to act on it,” said Kansas head coach and event organizer Clark Campbell. “The 72 athletes here will make history; the first ever collegiate open water championship. To see it go from just an idea to seeing all those athletes cross that finish line will be a dream come true for me.”

The championship field consists of 38 females and 34 males coming from a diverse group of colleges and universities spanning across the entire United States. Participating schools include the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Albion College, Carson-Newman University, University of Cincinnati, Colorado School of Mines, Emmanuel College (Georgia), University of Kansas, University of North Florida, Ohio Wesleyan University, Oklahoma Baptist University, Rice University and Saint Louis University.

“When we did this we had absolutely no idea what kind of response we would get,” Campbell said. “My goal was 30 on both sides and we’re a little bit over that, which is good. Combining all of the divisions has been a fun thing. We’re thrilled. The University of Alaska-Fairbanks definitely gets the award for traveling the most miles. We have a lot of teams, diverse teams, it’s been interesting to see the response. We hope it’s a great experience for the coaches and student-athletes and is something they want to do again next year.”

Competitors will swim a course that starts and finishes in the water – with the trigger pulled by guest starter and seven-time women’s marathon swimming champion Shelley Taylor-Smith – near the beach at Lone Star Lake and includes two laps around the main body of water. Admission to the event is free and spectators are encouraged to park in the lot above the beach, using the staircase to access the road and shoreline.

Five Kansas swimmers will compete in the historic field, including freshman Jenny Nusbaum and sophomores Breonna Barker, Haley Bishop, Cassaundra Pino and Libby Walker. Of the five, Walker enters the event with the most open water experience. KU’s distance specialist competed in the 10K race – the standard distance for open water swimming – at the US Open Water Nationals in April. She finished in the top-30 with a time of 2:11:09.00, an impressive showing in a prestigious race with a deeper-than-normal field in an Olympic year.
“Libby is our open water queen, she is really amped up for it,” Campbell said. “She has the most open water experience but she’s only done 10Ks, she’s never done a 5K. So this will almost be a sprint for her. She is pretty excited to only have to race for an hour instead of two.”

For Nusbaum, who along with Walker competed at the US Olympic Trials over the summer, this will be her first race as a Jayhawk as well as her first open water competition.
“This will be Jenny’s introduction to open water swimming, she’s never done it before,” Campbell said. “She’s never learned how to sight-breathe or anything like that, so we taught her some of the basics. I just want her to go out there and have a really good effort, have fun and enjoy it. I think she is going to find success in open water swimming. This will be a good first experience. It’s always exciting to be in your first event with a Jayhawk on your cap.”

There’s certainly a first time for everything and for 72 collegians on Saturday, the only first that matters is who touches the finish line first. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.