Not entirely sharp, but successful first session for Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. – There were times during Friday night’s season opener when Kansas looked like a team swimming in its first meet of the season, yet the Jayhawks managed to fight through the imperfections and win five individual events and both relays to open its two-day, double dual against Missouri State and North Dakota at Robinson Natatorium with a comfortable lead. Through 10 of 19 events Kansas led North Dakota, 122-63, and Missouri State, 136-49.
Amanda Maser finished second on the one-meter boards.Kansas, which kicked off its 2016-17 campaign and has nearly four months to iron out any wrinkles before the Big 12 Championship, overcame and adapted, even through the duration of Friday’s two-hour session. Jenny Nusbaum plowed through a rugged collegiate debut in the 200-yard freestyle – which the freshman still managed to win by two seconds – before turning in the fastest split of any competitor while spurring the 800-yard freestyle relay to a session closing win.
“It was a mixed bag, but we’ll take it in October,” Kansas head coach Clark Campbell said. “(Jenny) made about 10 mistakes in 1:52 that we have to clean up (in the 200 free), but she came back in the relay and had a pretty quick turnaround. It was good to see her make changes, which are tough, and see the team perform the way they did in a fairly quick format with event after event. I thought it was a good way to start the weekend.”
Nusbaum was one of three freshman Jayhawks to win their first individual collegiate races and was one of five total underclassmen to contribute individual event victories. Fellow freshman Haley Downey was part of KU’s meet-opening win in the 200-yard medley relay and won her swim in the 100-yard breaststroke.
“I wasn’t at the intrasquad meet, so I had no idea what to expect,” Nusbaum laughed after Friday’s session. “For my first event I was so nervous going up to the blocks. I got on the block and was shaking and my start was so bad. Once I got in the water everything felt so amazing.”
Kansas sophomore Libby Walker followed the first relay with a win in the 1,000-yard freestyle, easily topping the field by nearly 10 seconds. The Jayhawks got a points boost from senior captain Lindsay Manning, who caught and passed Missouri State’s Vikte Labanauskaite in the final laps to finish third.
Nusbaum’s 200 free ran KU’s win streak to three events before Missouri State’s Sarah Allegri won the 100-yard backstroke in 57.29, out-touching North Dakota’s Maddie Derby (57.64) and Kansas’ Yulya Kuchkarova 57.99.
North Dakota claimed a swimming win in the 200-yard butterfly as Marlena Pigliacampi finished in front of KU’s Walker and Elizabeth Amato-Hanner in 2:03.38. The Fighting Hawks also notched a win in the diving well as Sawyer Murray won the one-meter event by tallying 251.50 points to finish in front of Kansas’ Amanda Maser (239.50).
“Amanda is a girl who comes into the season and is supposed to be our tower specialist and maybe helps us out in some three-meter and ends up being our highest contributor on one-meter,” Kansas diving coach Gabe Downey said. “It was the highest score she’s ever had, coming off six weeks of not being able to do much with an ankle injury. It was a terrific performance by her. We’d like to finish first, that’s our goal of course, but she did everything she could, dove great, (Sawyer Murray) just dove better and we can live with that.”
Back in the swimming lanes, Kansas closed the session with a flurry by taking three of the top four spots, including the event win in the 50-yard freestyle and the 200-yard individual medley. The latter provided one of the most thrilling finishes of the evening as Amato-Hanner tied junior Madison Straight for the win, touching in 2:07.56, nearly two seconds ahead of the closest competitor.
KU’s Haley Bishop was the winner in the 50 free and contributed to both relay wins for the Jayhawks. Bishop opened the 800 free relay with a strong start but Kansas found itself in third position by the time Nusbaum entered the water for the second leg. Just over 1:52 later – equally as dominante as her first, but more technically magnificent – Nusbaum gave KU a full body length advantage over UND and Missouri State’s top relay teams, enough for Sammie Schurig and Breonna Barker to complete the victory despite a late surge by the Fighting Hawks’ Gabi Liedy.
“I love relays, and having the first swim out of the way, I was much more calm going into it,” Nusbaum said. “I really love swimming relays when I have people next to me – I know I need to go fast for my team, so it was a lot of fun.”
Kansas wore pink caps Friday night in conjunction with the athletic department’s Jayhawks for a Cure initiative to raise funds and awareness for the fight against cancer. The team will look to hold its grip on the competition when racing resumes at noon Saturday. Prior to the start of the second session, the program will honor its nine-member senior class. Also in action Friday, the Missouri State men’s team opened a commanding, 130-55, lead over North Dakota through 10 events.
“Tonight, the energy was easy,” Campbell said. “It was Friday night, they felt good. Tomorrow we’ll see how they bounce back. Saturday morning is tough. I think we’ll have extra motivation tomorrow because it is our senior celebration and we get to honor our nine seniors. I know that that energy will lift up the team and hopefully we swim with as much energy tomorrow as we did tonight.”
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