Program-best performance for Kansas at the Big 12 Championship
AUSTIN, Texas – For the second-consecutive year, Kansas swimming and diving finished second in the Big 12 Championship and set a program record for total points. The Jayhawks tallied 683.5 points over the four day meet in Austin, Texas, and were bested only by the Texas Longhorns, swimming in their home pool.
The morning preliminary session had been the hurdle preventing Kansas from fully capitalizing on its potential. Saturday morning saw the Jayhawks do a better job of landing swimmers in the coveted ‘A’ finals, placing eight in ‘A’ finals and seven in ‘B’ finals. KU qualified for 25 percent of the available ‘A’ final spots amongst the four events swam in the morning, its best rate of the meet. Kansas’ performance was helped by five lifetime swims, including a 2:15.71 200-yard breaststroke from Haley Downey, which also qualified for the NCAA ‘B’ cut. The lifetime performances were not limited to just the pool, as Peri Charapich scored a lifetime-best 196.50 from the diving platform. She and teammate Amanda Maser both qualified for the platform diving final.
“Today was the best day of the meet and we set it up by having a fantastic morning,” KU head coach Clark Campbell said. “We had more than our fair share of ‘A’ finalists tonight and they really made the most of it.”
The 400-yard freestyle relay secured the team’s place in program history.Kansas added 246 points in the afternoon session, helping the team surpass its program-best point total of 650.5 from last year’s squad. Libby Walker (16:32.88), Jenny Nusbaum (16:43.55) and Nika Fellows (16:57.01) added all placed in the top eight of the 1,650-yard freestyle, which was formatted as three finals heats. Walker finished third in the field, trailed by fourth place Nusbaum, who set a new personal best in the event, and Fellows in eighth.
Five Jayhawks swam in the 200-yard backstroke, with Yulduz Kuchkarova and Pia Pavlic competing in the ‘A’ final, and Sammie Schurig, Madison Hutchison and Hannah Angell racing in the ‘B’ final. Kuchkarova (1:57.95) and Pavlic (1:59.04) placed sixth and seventh, while Schurig (1:58.99), Hutchison (2:00.24) and Angell (2:02.72) recorded respective finishes of second, fourth and eighth in the ‘B’ final.
Carly Straight (50.33) and Taylor Sieperda (51.27) represented Kansas in the 100-yard freestyle ‘A’ final, placing fifth and eighth. Their efforts were supported by fellow freestyler Leah Pfitzer, who logged a swim of 51.99 to finish seventh in the ‘B’ final.
Downey replicated her feats from the previous two days of topping her lifetime-best swim in the morning, only to beat it again in the afternoon in the 200-yard breaststroke. Downey touched the wall third in the ‘A’ final after cruising to a 2:15.32 swim. Fellow ‘A’ finalist Lydia Pocisk (2:18.58) finished seventh. Gretchen Pocisk (2:16.76) and Madison Straight (2:19.05) swept the top two spots in the 200-yard breaststroke ‘B’ final.
Walker, a mere hour after placing third in the 1,650-yard freestyle, swam just a second off of her best time in the 200-yard butterfly ‘A’ final. She swam just a second slower than her personal best to place sixth, slightly ahead of teammate Elizabeth Amato-Hanner (2:02.90), who finished eighth. Haley Bishop won the ‘B’ final with a time of 2:02.44.
Charapich and Maser performed admirably in the platform final, finishing third and fourth, respectively. The freshman Charapich twice broke her personal five dive score on Saturday, flashing her potential to be a perennial high finisher in the platform dive at the Big 12 Championship.
“I knew Amanda could get up to where she was, in prelims she showed that she could,” KU diving coach Gabe Downey said. “Peri in prelims did about what I thought. After prelims I told her, which I don’t think I’ve ever told a kid, to enjoy what she accomplished in prelims, but not expect to do that exactly in finals. Her performance was impressive, she and Amanda both really came through.”
The night concluded with a riveting 400-yard freestyle relay. A Kansas team consisting of Kuchkarova, Pavlic, Bishop and Carly Straight trailed Texas and Iowa State for the entire race until the final leg anchored by Straight. The freshman raced through her 100-yard leg in 49.58 seconds to tie Iowa State for second with a time of 3:21.90. Campbell, ecstatic over the performance, already had goals in mind for the 2017-18 season.
“Next year we will have swimmers in the NCAA Championships,” he said. “Another good program goal for us is to score 700 points. We have a solid foundation to accomplish more each year.”
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