Under the water, Kuchkarova above the rest
LAWRENCE, Kan. – A perennial top-three Big 12 swimmer in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke, Yulduz Kuchkarova’s senior season had started below the 2016 All-Big 12 swimmer’s standards. A return to form in the Kansas Classic, where her respective 100- and 200-yard backstroke times of 54.03 and 1:58.07 clinched her first and second place, has caught the attention of CollegeSwimming.com, who named her the Swimmer of the Week for the Big 12 Conference. Kuchkarova’s times in both events also measured as NCAA ‘B’ cuts.
“It’s absolutely awesome to see,” exclaimed Kansas head coach Clark Campbell. “We talked about it a lot; struggling this fall. She really went for trying to make the Rio team this past summer. This spring we were resting for races and in the summer we were resting for races. When you’re going for your Olympic time, it’s just so convoluted because you cannot get in a solid, several-week training season, you’re always chasing times. It really does affect your overall fitness. When it’s done, she took a break, and in her home when there’s a break there’s no swimming. You really do lose quite a bit of fitness, to her credit she does get fit really quick, but there’s a difference between getting fit and getting ready to perform.
“This fall was all about getting fit and giving her a few days’ rest and seeing what the performance was based off of that. It’s very encouraging, now that we go into Big 12/NCAA preparation with all of this previous training that she’s done, she’s a lot more ahead of the curve now than where she was in August.”
The award marks Kuchkarova’s first weekly award in her career and the second such honor for Kansas this season, with Haley Bishop garnering the CSCAA’s Big 12 Swimmer of the Week award on November 1. Kansas expects its diverse group of high-performers to attract more attention throughout the rest of the season.
“It’s really cool because you know we have a deep team,” Campbell said. “We can go across the board on each of the event specialties and they could be that at some point based on a good meet. It’s not like we have one or two kids and it’s all revolved around them. You go through all of our events, and to see how loaded we are in every event and how we have high-level performers in everything, it makes looking forward to the rest of the season really exciting.”
Kuchkarova’s Kansas Classic performance was not far off from her lifetime 100 and 200 backstroke swims of 53.09 and 1:55.87, respectively, both of which occurred during the 2015 Kansas Big Challenge. With several weeks until Big 12 and NCAA action, the expectation is for Kuchkarova to continue challenging her top times, maybe even surpassing them.
“She will go substantially faster at Big 12s,” Campbell said. “Physically, she is just stronger, more fit and ready to go. Mentally, I think she is the same way, now that she’s seen the light, so-to-speak, she’s kind of come back to planet Earth and is ready to hunker down and get ready for Big 12s and hopefully the NCAAs after that.”
The next opportunity to see Kuchkarova swim will come in 2017, when Kansas travels to Los Angeles, California to take on Boise State and UCLA in a double dual on January 6. Before then, Kansas diving will make a trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota to compete in the Jean Freeman Invitational.
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