Kansas separates from pack, sits in second at Big 12 Championship

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AUSTIN, Texas – Kansas swimming and diving strengthened its grip on second place in the Big 12 Championship with a 229-point outing on Friday. With multiple lifetime swims, the Jayhawks were able to build a 47-point lead on West Virginia inside the Jamail Swimming Center in Austin, Texas.

The Jayhawks entered Friday morning’s preliminaries determined to outperform the previous day’s showing, where the team secured only one-eighth of the available ‘A’ finals spots. Kansas managed to do that, qualifying for seven of the 40 total ‘A’ finals spots among Friday’s five individual events.

Hannah Angell and Zoya Wahlstrom set the tone for the fast preliminaries with their respective lifetime swims of 55.05 and 55.64 in the 100-yard butterfly. Angell’s performance qualified her for the event’s ‘B’ final along with Haley Bishop and Leah Pfitzer. Pia Pavlic’s 54.84 swim granted her a slot in the ‘A’ final.

In the 400-yard individual medley, KU was able to place Libby Walker and Madison Straight in the ‘A’ final. Straight swam a lifetime-best 4:19.45, her first 400 IM swim under the 4:20 mark. Kansas followed up by qualifying another pair of swimmers in the 200-yard freestyle ‘A’ final. Jenny Nusbaum highlighted the KU preliminary effort in the event with a lifetime swim of 1:48.97. She was joined in the ‘A’ final by Sammie Schurig. The Jayhawks also qualified Carly Straight and Nika Fellows for the event’s ‘B’ final.

Haley Downey swam a lifetime-best 100-yard breaststroke of 1:02.69 to claim her spot in the event’s ‘A’ final as the lone Jayhawk. The duo of Gretchen and Lydia Pocisk qualified for the 100-yard breaststroke ‘B’ final. Kansas closed out the session by landing five swimmers in the 100-yard backstroke finals. Four Jayhawks; Elizabeth Amato-Hanner, Hannah Angell, Madison Hutchison and Taylor Sieperda, made it into the event’s ‘B’ final, while Yulduz Kuchkarova qualified for the ‘A’ final.

In the diving well, Nadia Khechfe qualified for the three-meter diving final by placing eighth in preliminaries with a score of 229.20. In addition to Khechfe’s qualification, KU placed a total of seven swimmers in ‘A’ finals and eleven in ‘B’ finals. Though happy with the team’s improvement from the morning prior, KU head coach Clark Campbell believed the team still left a lot to be desired with its morning performances.

“We were a little sluggish again this morning,” Campbell said. “We came back and we just rocked finals. It’s been an interesting meet in that traditionally we’ve been stronger in the morning, but we’re grabbing lanes and making the most of every opportunity at night. Some members of the team are having a hard time sleeping. We need to get back, wind it down and rest tonight.”

Kansas continued its trend of dominating the finals sessions. Khechfe started things off by scoring 259.55 and placing eighth in the three-meter dive final. Bishop (55.08) and Pfitzer (55.39) secured the top-two spots in the 100-yard butterfly ‘B’ final, followed by fifth-place Angell (55.76). Combined with Pavlic’s (54.25) fifth-place finish in the ‘A’ final, Kansas added a quick 34 points to its total after the first swimming event.

Walker (4:20.29) and Madison Straight (4:17.81) combined to rack up 28 points for Kansas in their ‘A’ final swim of the 400-yard individual medley by placing seventh and third, respectively. Straight’s time bested her lifetime swim that she set in the morning session, made the NCAA ‘B’ cut and recorded one of the five-fastest times in KU history.Madison Straight recorded one of the five-fastest times in KU history with her 400 IM.
KU continued to get point support from its ‘B’ finalists, with Carly Straight (1:49.15) and Fellows (1:50.48) finishing one-two, respectively, in the 200-yard freestyle. They buoyed the efforts of ‘A’ finalists Nusbaum (1:47.26) and Schurig (1:48.96), whose respective finishes of fourth and fifth aided in making the 200-yard freestyle a lucrative affair for the Jayhawks, who came away from the event with a 35-point haul. Schurig’s swim continued the senior’s pattern of following the old swimming adage, “last one, fast one,” by again swimming a lifetime-best in her final rendition of the 200-yard freestyle. The evening prior, Schurig recorded a lifetime swim in her last 500-yard freestyle.

In the 100-yard breaststroke, Lydia Pocisk (1:03.26) tied for first with Iowa State’s Laura Miksch in the ‘B’ final, while Gretchen Pocisk was tagged with a disqualification. Downey replicated her feat from the day prior of swimming lifetime-bests in the same event in the morning and afternoon session, improving upon her personal record set earlier on Friday with a 1:02.09 swim. Her time was the third-fastest in the 100-yard breaststroke ‘A’ final and made the NCAA ‘B’ cut.

“It’s really exciting,” said Campbell, on Downey’s performance. “We made a little adjustment to her stroke before the (finals) race and she took it really well and dropped some more time. Her best event is actually tomorrow, the 200-yard breaststroke. She’s carrying a lot of momentum and really excited about it. She’s having a tremendous meet and I’m so excited for her future.”

The four Jayhawks in the 100-yard backstroke ‘B’ final nearly swept the race, with Amato-Hanner (54.98), Hutchison (55.33) and Angell (55.48) finishing in that order in the top three, all with lifetime bests, and Sieperda (55.66) placing fifth. Kuchkarova (54.35) placed fourth in the corresponding ‘A’ final to cap a 41-point event for Kansas. The Jayhawks ended the evening with a third-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle relay behind the efforts of Bishop, Kuchkarova, Pavlic and Carly Straight. Their 1:31.54 swim was two tenths of a second off from the program’s best time ever.

After the conclusion of Friday’s action, the team was visited by Kansas head men’s basketball coach Bill Self, who was in town for Saturday’s basketball game at Texas. He shared anecdotes, advice and humorous observations meaning to help the team stay focused going into the final day of competition.

“When you get older, you’ll look back on this as memorable because you shared something special with your teammates,” Self said to the team.

The Big 12 Championship will conclude on Saturday with a 10 a.m. morning preliminary session and a 6 p.m. finals session. FloSports will continue to live stream all of the preliminary and final events. Swimming and diving fans can also follow the live results through the Big 12’s Swimming and Diving Championship website at Big12Sports.com.
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