Jayhawks sweep inaugural CSCAA National Collegiate Open Water Championship
Bishop (L) and Walker (R) walk together to receive their first-place medal.
LAWRENCE, Kan. – A one hour, five minute race across 5,000 meters at Lone Star Lake – perhaps more as the path meandered a bit – wasn’t enough to separate the top two swimmers in the women’s field, even after photo and video review. Kansas sophomores Haley Bishop and Libby Walker tied for first to share the individual title at the inaugural CSCAA National Collegiate Open Water Championship, and Jayhawk freshman Jenny Nusbaum made a late charge to give Kansas a clean sweep for the top team honors. In the men’s race, Stanislas Raczynski from Emmanuel College led wire-to-wire – meandering a bit on his own – and the Cincinnati Bearcats earned the men’s team title.
A longer-than-5K swim did nothing to determine a women’s winner, nor defy Nusbaum, who trailed the wire-to-wire lead pack of Bishop, Walker and Rice’s Hanna Houston by more than 20 seconds at times in the chase pack before closing in the final 300 meters. Walker and Bishop slapped the finish board simultaneously at 1:05:48.32, while Nusbaum finished just off their pace at 1:05:48.85. Huston, who faded a bit late after hanging with the lead group throughout the first 4,700 meters, was less than two seconds behind in fourth at 1:05:50.08.
“It’s the coolest thing ever, to have two Jayhawks up there and we had Jenny as well, who had an incredible finish,” Walker, who posted a top-30 finish at USA Swimming’s Open Water Championship in April, said. “It’s just really cool to get to share it with these girls because we trained really hard for this, it was a lot of effort put in by everyone.”
During Saturday’s competition the top three swimmers from each squad also contributed a combined team total, with Kansas sweeping the top three spots and team championship in 3:17:20.99, finishing ahead of second-place Rice, whose top three competitors combined for a time of 3:20:24.06.
Kansas head coach Clark Campbell never imagined such a successful showing for Kansas when he orchestrated the inaugural CSCAA National Collegiate Open Water Championship. The event featured 35 female competitors representing 10 schools and 33 male swimmers from 8 institutions. Though expectations were high entering the event, KU occupying the top three spots made his dream race even sweeter.
“It was beyond expectation,” Campbell, who doubled as the meet director and rode both races out from a kayak on the lake, said. “I figured we would be in the hunt and be very competitive, but to go one-two-three like that against Cincinnati and Rice, who have some very good open water swimmers. For us to be able to compete like that and use the course to our advantage and race the way we did this early, I couldn’t be more proud.”
Sarah Nowaski (4th – 1:06:22.30) and Claire Therien (9th – 1:08:12.22) each finished among the top-10 for Rice, while four Cincinnati swimmers finished in the middle-to-bottom half of the top 15 to claim third-place team honors with a combined time of 3:35:23.75. Kansas sophomore Breonna Barker claimed the last of eight individual medalist spots with her swim of 1:07:33.22 and second-year Jayhawk Cassaundra Pino finished 20th with a time of 1:11:27.78.
The men’s race also featured a hotly contested, yet not as narrow finish. Raczynski of Emmanuel College and Marcelo Figueiredo of Carson-Newman University were neck-and-neck until Raczynski surged ahead at the finish line. Raczynski led from start to finish, despite making a wrong turn at the first buoy before readjusting and maintaining the lead position. He even lost his cap in the later quarter of the race, but was able to fend off his fellow Division II international counterpart.
“I’ve already swam some open water events so I kind of knew how it would go. I missed a few buoys, that was my mistake, but the water was really good, the race really interesting,” Raczynski, who spent several minutes laying on his back on the dock after the 5K swim, said. “I was happy because I won, but I used a lot of effort when I missed the buoys to try to come back and not get behind. I was really exhausted.”
The Cincinnati captured the team title over second-place Carson-Newman with a time of 3:09:29, claiming four individual medalist honors, including four of the next five positions after the top two. Bearcat swimmer Chris Bready was third overall in a time of 1:01:42.76. Saint Louis University placed third in the team results with three individuals sprinkled evenly among the top 14 competitors at a combined 3:14:46.
Seven-time women’s world marathon champion and distance swimming legend Shelley Taylor-Smith presented the awards and addressed the competitors at the event, which was a first attempt at open water swimming for many of the participants.
“It was really exciting to see,” Taylor-Smith said. “I spoke to competitors and asked them how was it today, and they went, ‘You know, it hurt,’ but then they smiled and said it was quite enjoyable and fun. That’s what it’s about, because it is a different experience. There is no black line, so you’re really dealing mostly with your head. The mindset is what’s paramount in open water swimming.
“It’s not necessarily distance swimmers who are going to excel in open water. It was great to see Haley (Bishop) who’s a 50 freestyler and 100 flyer from KU dead heated with a 1,650 swimmer at KU at 5,000 meters. I got excited about that one. I don’t know if she’s excited yet because she’s wondering what Clark Campbell going to pop her up for now.
“It was really nice to see the camaraderie between the teams. A lot of people say swimming is a solo sport, but I really believe that it’s a team sport and when you see the teammates that aren’t competing come down, it makes for a great event. This is the impetus that needs to go forward for the NCAA.”
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