Jayhawks flex distance muscle to open Kansas Classic
TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas delivered in its most loaded final heat as Libby Walker and Jenny Nusbaum finished first and second and four Jayhawks scored points in the 500-yard freestyle, part of an effort that saw KU end the first day of the Kansas Classic at the top of the leaderboard. Walker and Nusbaum both swam lifetime bests on a day full of top times at Capitol Federal Natatorium.
Kansas logged 25 season-best times in prelims Friday morning and advanced eight to finals in three individual events, including Walker, Nusbaum, Nika Fellows and Sammie Schurig in the 500-yard freestyle. Coupled with a pair of runner-up finishes in bookend relay races, Kansas placed among the top four in every race to lead with 282 total points at the end of day one. Nebraska was second with 263 points, followed by Iowa State (169.5), Northern Iowa (137), Northern Arizona (109) and Arkansas-Little Rock (84.5).
“We swam really, really well,” Kansas head coach Clark Campbell said. “Last year, our first day at this meet was a little rocky. Today our team really came out fired up, with a lot of energy and enthusiasm and carried that from the start of prelims all the way through the last relay.”
Walker shaved two seconds off her lifetime best and Nusbaum dropped six seconds – in one day – off of her fastest time while chasing down Iowa State’s Keely Soellner near the midpoint of their race, then the two Jayhawks pulled away, spurred on by each other.
“Having a better race than this morning was really important, because (my swim) this morning was not very good,” Walker said of qualifying fourth after prelims, more than five seconds behind Soellner’s top time. “I just wanted to get out there and race. I went in with the mindset that I wanted to go out there and have the best race that I can. I don’t think I would have gone that fast if I didn’t have Jenny there pushing me. It’s really awesome having someone on your team pushing you.”
Haley Downey contributed to Kansas success in the 400-yard medley relay.Iowa State opened the evening session with a win in a tightly contested 200-yard freestyle relay, claiming the top spot in 1:32.91, just over one-tenth of a second faster than Kansas’ 1:33.04. Nebraska (1:33.16) and Northern Iowa (1:33.63) were also just a hair off the fastest pace.
Walker and Nusbaum’s one-two finish provided an answer, then Kansas claimed three out of the six top spots in the 200-yard individual medley as Nebraska claimed it’s own mini-sweep of the top two positions. Kansas freshman Elizabeth Amato-Hanner (2:03.06) and senior Pia Pavlic (2:03.24) touched near the same time after the Huskers’ Anna McDonald (2:01.41) and Tori Beeler (2:01.44) provided a photo finish. Madison Straight finished sixth in the final heat, swimming a 2:03.64, further lowering her season-best time from prelims .
Haley Bishop was Kansas’ lone ‘A’ finalist in a wide-open 50-yard freestyle and finished fourth in a time of 23.47 before contributing to KU’s second-place finish in the 400-yard medley relay. In that closing relay, Nebraska’s team of Erin Oeltjen, Tori Beeler, Dana Posthuma and Allie Worrall lowered the Huskers’ own meet record set last season with a winning time of 3:39.56.
“We got the start that we wanted and that’s the goal: getting our season best times at this meet and using that momentum to carry us into the real important time in February and March,” Campbell said. “If we can be where we are right now, with what we’ve done up to this point with half a season to go, we’re in a really good spot.”
With every Kansas swimmer turning in season-best times, Campbell noted that Jayhawk freshman Katy Schlies was named the team’s swimmer of the session for her morning performances. Schlies turned in a 200 IM finals time of 2:06.37, a lifetime best that topped her 2013 Indiana High School State Championships lifetime best.
“She dropped a ton of time in the 200 IM,” Campbell said. “Katy’s an interesting swimmer because she’s very versatile. We really don’t know what to put her in, so we were like, ‘Alright, be an IMer.’ She did great.”
The three-day Kansas Classic continues Saturday with seven more events, starting with five preliminary swims at 10 a.m. in the 400-yard IM, 100-yard butterfly, 200-yard freestyle, 100-yard breaststroke and 100-yard backstroke. The top qualifiers in each event will swim in the 6 p.m. evening session, where relay races in the 200-yard medley and 800-yard free will also be conducted. Admission to both sessions at Capitol Federal Natatorium in Hummer Sports Park is free and open to the public.