Jayhawks Push Each Other Back into Second on Eve of Big 12 Finale
AUSTIN, Texas – A meet record and a new league record kept Kansas’ Yulya Kuchkarova and Chelsie Miller from individual Big 12 titles, but the most exciting race of the day may have come from a pair of KU teammates as the Jayhawks climbed back into second place after the third day of the Big 12 Championships Friday inside the Jamail Swimming Center.
Kansas found its way to the podium 12 times to move into second in the team standings with 434.5 points behind Texas (707) and ahead of Iowa State (386.5), West Virginia (361) and TCU (278). Miller was runner-up in the 400 IM and Kuchkarova finished second in the 100 back, but a head-to-head duel between Pia Pavlic and Haley Bishop for second place in the 100-yard butterfly showed the quality of depth that allowed KU to move up the standings.
Both flyers posted lifetime-best marks in prelims to find themselves among the top seeds for ‘A’ finals. From the moment the starter pistol sounded in the evening session, the two were battling each other for second-place. In the end, Pavlic edged out Bishop by one-hundredth of a second with a time of 53.80. Both Jayhawks improved their prelims times, earning silver and bronze to contribute a combined 33 points for KU.
The pair of Jayhawks weren’t just racing against each other for second, but nine-hundredths of a second separated Pavlic, Bishop as well as two Longhorn swimmers. Breonna Barker
“That race was just awesome,” head coach Clark Campbell. “Those two and the two Texas kids, hundredths of seconds separated four kids, it was so exciting. I had no idea until the times came up who was where because it just looked like a simultaneous touch and they eeked it out. We worked a lot on finishes in practices so it was nice to see it come through in a race.”
Junior Hannah Angell also qualified for ‘A’ finals in the 100 fly, swimming a 56.07.
In the following event, Kansas teammates Haley Molden and Breonna Barker put on another head-to-head performance in the 200-yard freestyle with just two-hundredths of a second separating the two. Barker out-touched Molden in a career-best swim of 1:49.27 to finish third in the event, while Molden (1:49.29) finished fourth.
Two years ago, Miller made Kansas history, becoming the first Jayhawk to win an event at Big 12 when she won the 400-yard individual medley with a historic swim. While the senior was unable to clinch another victory in the event this year, she turned in a season-best mark with a time of 4:09.28 to finish second only to Texas’ Madisyn Cox (4:04.67). Cox’s time was the fourth fastest time in the country after Friday.
The Jayhawks also had Libby Walker (4:19.74) and sophomore Madison Straight (4:22.16) representing the team in the ‘A’ final, placing fifth and seventh respectively. In the consolation final, senior Laura Bilsborrow tallied a personal-best swim with a mark of 4:29.08.
Kuchkarova registered Kansas’ third, second-place finish of the evening in the 100-yard backstroke, turning in a time of 53.60. Longhorn senior Tasija Karosas won the event and claimed a new meet and conference record with a time of 51.40. In the ‘B’ finals, Madison Hutchison turned in a career-best mark of 55.80 to finish behind teammate Hannah Angell (55.72) and ahead of Taylor Sieperda (56.49).
Junior Amanda Maser finished 15th in the three-meter diving contest totaling 200.50 points, but was unable to qualify for finals. UT’s Megan Houston won the diving competition with a score of 345.60.
It was no coincidence that the four Jayhawks who displayed their speed in a pair of neck-and-neck races earlier in the evening teamed up for the 200-yard freestyle relay. After familiarizing themselves with close races, Bishop, Pavlic, Barker and Molden found themselves in yet another photo finish, however, this time it was an opponent not wearing Crimson and Blue. KU beat ISU by two-tenths of a second to finish second in yet another relay.
“Today was really, really good,” Campbell said. “The team stepped up and really had a tremendous morning and then came back and we were even faster tonight. It was really cool seeing the team step up and reach a high level of performance. From the 400 IM on, we just kept rolling at a super high level. Tomorrow should be a lot of fun.”
After 14 events, the Jayhawks have combined to register 37 season-best times, including 16 swimmers turning in lifetime performances throughout the league meet.
The final day of the 2016 Big Championships will begin at 10 a.m. with prelims in the 200-yard backstroke, 100-yard freestyle, 200-yard breaststroke and 200-yard butterfly. Platform prelims will begin at 2:40, with finals conducted between the 200 fly and 400-yard freestyle relay finals Saturday evening. The top-eight divers will advance to finals.
The top-24 swimmers from the morning will advance to finals beginning at 6 p.m. Live results can be followed at Big12Sports.com.
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