KU overcomes morning struggles, remains in second at Big 12 Championship
AUSTIN, Texas – Though Kansas swimming and diving may not have put itself in the best position to succeed with its performance at preliminaries on Thursday morning, the team came out firing on all cylinders to make up for it in the afternoon finals session. Spectators at the Jamail Swimming Center in Austin, Texas witnessed nine Jayhawks record lifetime swims, most of which came during finals competition.
Kansas’ sluggish performance in the preliminary session netted the team only three of the 24 total spots in the coveted ‘A’ final between Thursday’s three individual events. Two of the three ‘A’ final qualifications were the result of lifetime swims. Jenny Nusbaum was the first to set a new personal record with her 4:49.84 swim in the 500-yard freestyle. Haley Downey broke her personal-best time set in the Kansas Classic last October in the 200-yard individual medley. She was joined by Pia Pavlic for qualifying for the ‘A’ final. The bulk of KU’s chances for points in the finals session would have to come from the ‘B’ finals, of which nine Jayhawks qualified for.
“This morning we were a little stiff, we swam a little tight,” KU head coach Clark Campbell said. “We got the afternoon rest, talked about the race a little bit and switched up some strategies. They came out and executed really well, the afternoon session definitely outperformed the morning session. The Thursday event order for us is always a bit of a challenge, I think this has been one of our better Thursdays in a while.”
After the break between the day’s two sessions, the Jayhawks had shaken off all morning grogginess, making the most of their opportunities for points in the finals swims. Twenty-five points came from Jenny Nusbaum in the ‘A’ final and Sammie Schurig and Nika Fellows in the ‘B’ final of the 500-yard freestyle. Schurig, in the senior’s last 500-yard freestyle swim, lopped off one-and-a-half seconds from her lifetime record, logging a time of 4:50.79 to win the ‘B’ final.
“We talked a lot about what goes on mentally and how it connects to how you feel physically (during the break),” said Campbell. “I thought what really set the tone for us was Sammie’s 500. You’d much rather have the ‘A’ final, but we ended up winning every ‘B’ final.”
Four Jayhawks set new lifetime-bests in the 200-yard individual medley. Elizabeth Amato-Hanner (2:01.62) and Madison Straight (2:02.05) set personal records while placing first and second, respectively, in the ‘B’ final. They were joined by Lydia Pocisk, who recorded a time of 2:04.51 to finish fourth. Pia Pavlic (2:01.38) and Downey (2:02.21) both broke lifetime records with their swims in the ‘A’ final for respective finishes of tied-fourth and sixth. Pavlic touched the wall simultaneously with Devin Newton of TCU. For Downey, it was her second-straight lifetime-best swim in an event Campbell believes she can flourish in later in her career.
Haley Downey set a personal record, twice, in the 200 IM”She’s a breaststroker and she’s just beginning to realize her abilities in the 200 IM,” Campbell said. “We still have a lot of work to do but, as she continues to improve, she is somebody I believe can knock on the door of NCAAs in this event. What a great start to that journey today, both in the morning and afternoon.”
Without any competitors in the 50-yard freestyle ‘A’ final, Kansas had to capitalize on its four swimmers in the ‘B’ final. The Jayhawks ensured they would make it count, with three out of the four posting lifetime-best times. Yulduz Kuchkarova (23.29) and Carly Straight (23.29) tied for third and Taylor Sieperda (23.47) finished seventh, all three able to boast new personal records once they exited the pool. While Haley Bishop did not break a personal record, she did win the ‘B’ final with a time of 23.12, fast enough to have placed seventh in the ‘A’ final.
In the diving well, Nadia Khechfe placed eighth in the one-meter final after scoring 249.95 through six dives. The night concluded with the 400-yard medley relay, where the Jayhawks finished second behind Texas. Kansas’ relay team of Kuchkarova, Downey, Bishop, and Carly Straight swam a time of 3:39.66, just over a second slower than the fastest time in program history. After all was said and done, KU still held a grasp, albeit weaker, on second place in the conference standings with 208.5 points. The Jayhawks lead Iowa State by 2.5 points and trail behind only first-place Texas.
The Big 12 Championship will continue Friday morning at 10 a.m. with the preliminary round and continue with finals competition at 6 p.m. FloSports will continue to live stream all of the preliminary and final events. Swimming and diving fans can also follow the stats live through the Big 12’s Swimming and Diving Championship website.
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