Kansas Makes History en Route to 2nd-Place Finish
AUSTIN, Texas – Kansas swimming and diving capped off a historic Big 12 Championship meet by garnering the program’s largest point total since the inception of the conference 20 years ago, along with senior Chelsie Miller lowering her own school record in the 200-yard butterfly. The Jayhawks totaled 650.5 points, improving their previous team high by a margin of 33.5 points to finish the meet in second place. Texas won with 1043 points, while Iowa State (570.5), West Virginia (530) and TCU (451) followed KU in the team standings.
It is only the second time that Kansas has finished among the top-two in head coach Clark Campbell’s 14-year tenure with the Jayhawks, the other coming in 2014. The squad racked up 15 top-three finishes throughout the four-day contest to help attain its preseason goals of accomplishing a record-breaking point total.
“There’s not much that beats accomplishing your goals as a team,” Campbell said. “We really have to attribute our seniors leading us through this. It’s been a year in the making, last year it wasn’t like this and we set a goal to get back where we belong and swam great. I’m really excited for what we accomplished and for the team, but our four seniors – Laura Bilsborrow, Bryce Hinde, Chelsie Miller and Haley Molden – have met so much to us and it was really cool to have their leadership lead us to this point.”
A strong outing in the 200-yard butterfly was the difference maker in Kansas’ pursuit of making history. Three Jayhawks placed in the top-five, contributing 46 points and bringing the teamLibby Walker within seven tallies of surpassing the previous milestone of 617 points. Senior Chelsie Miller battled Texas freshman Remedy Rule for the top spot, but despite a career performance Rule out-touched Miller by three-tenths of a second with a time of 1:57.95. Miller lowered her own school record in the event with a time of 1:58.25 – the second program mark set by Miller during the meet. Libby Walker (2:00.57) and Haley Bishop (2:01.56) claimed fourth and fifth, respectively.
“That was really special to do because we know we have three really good 200 flyers,” Campbell said. “Chelsie went out after it, even though she was second it was still a school record and a lifetime-best.”
The Jayhawks waited until the last event to officially make history. With the help from the flyers, Kansas’ 400-yard freestyle relay – consisting of Haley Bishop, Pia Pavlic, Breonna Barker and Haley Molden – just had to complete a clean race to put KU over the point barrier. The squad put a stamp on the meet finishing third with a time of 3:23.10 to propel the Jayhawks to 650.5 points.
After breaking the two-minute barrier for the first time in her career during Saturday morning’s prelims session, junior Sammie Schurig solidified a spot in the ‘A’ finals of the 200-yard backstroke. The Topeka, Kansas native turned in a time of 1:59.05 during prelims, and while she was unable to improve her time in finals she remained under two-minutes and placed sixth for the Jayhawks. Yulya Kuchkarova finished third in the event with a swim of 1:57.07.
A trio of Jayhawks added to the squad’s point total in the 100-yard freestyle with Breonna Barker (50.74) and Haley Molden (51.63) placing in the top-eight. Leah Pfitzer finished third in the ‘B’ final with a swim of 51.50 to tack on another six points.
Freshman Libby Walker turned in a personal-record in the 1,650-yard freestyle to finish second in a time of 16:32.71. Walker created space early and kept pace, finishing 14 seconds ahead of West Virginia’s Emma Skelley. Longhorn freshman Joanna Evans took first, swimming a 16:13.39.
The breaststroke events treated junior Gretchen Pocisk well all week long, as she turned in lifetime swims in both the 100- and 200-yard races. Pocisk shed a full second off of her 100 breast during Friday’s prelims session with a time of 1:03.13 and went on to place eighth in the ‘A’ finals. The Dayton, Ohio product duplicated her performance in the 200 breast the following day with a career swim in prelims (2:17.70). She again placed eighth in Saturday’s ‘A’ final, unable to better her morning swims both days.
Graylyn Jones led the Jayhawks in the platform competition scoring a career-high 179.9 points, placing 12th in a field of 20 divers. Nadia Khechfe (173.70) and Amanda Maser (171.60) finished 15th and 16th, respectively.
“We had a few dives we were really happy with this week,” diving coach Gabe Downey said. “Nadia had a nice dive on the five-meter today, it was a dive she’s been working through and finished really strong.
Kansas closed the four-day meet tallying a total of 59 season-best times, while 18 Jayhawks had lifetime performances during the league meet.
“We had a lot of lifetime-bests,” Campbell said. “A lot of people just got into competing, which is what you want to do at this level. It’s a lot more about the racing than the times. If the times happen, great, but you want to put yourself in position to be competitive so it was a good overall weekend. I’m really happy with where we are right now.”
The Big 12 Championships wrapped up Kansas’ 2015-16 season. Divers Graylyn Jones and Nadia Khechfe will continue their season at the NCAA Zone Diving Championships March 7-9. Miller will have the opportunity to compete at the NCAA Swimming Championships for the third consecutive year, March 17-19.
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