Proposal for Collegiate Open Water Championship Moves Forward with County’s Approval
LAWRENCE, Kan. – A unanimous vote of approval Wednesday afternoon by the Douglas County Commission moved Kansas swimming and diving one step closer to hosting the first National Collegiate Open Water Swimming Championship at Lone Star Lake this summer. Commissioners approved the Sept. 17 event in concept, and event organizers including Kansas head coach Clark Campbell will continue to work on finalizing details with county staff.
The event, presented jointly by Kansas Athletics and the College Swim Coaches Association of America (CSCAA), would be a first-of-its-kind championship for collegiate open water swimming, an Olympic event of long distance swimming in a large body of water. Kansas senior swimmer Chelsie Miller competed at US Open Water Nationals at the start of last summer and the Jayhawks regularly use the lake to break up the monotony of fall training while the weather allows.
“The idea of doing something like this has been kicked around for a long time among all of the swimming coaches,” said Campbell, a member of the CSCAA’s Board of Directors. “We just needed somebody to grab it by the horns and run with it, so I pitched the idea to our Athletics Director and with his support moved forward. We have an outstanding venue to do this and we’re in the middle of the country, making it easily accessible for everybody on both coasts. We also have the community that would really get behind us and really help out put on a first class event.”
Campbell’s proposal for the event would put Jayhawk swimmers in a competition at the lake for the first time since the mid-1990s when the team conducted several season-opening dual meets against Southern Illinois, under former head coach Gary Kempf. The proposal calls for one women’s and one men’s 5K race, half the length of the 10K Open Water Nationals and Olympic races. Campbell said the goal was to keep it manageable for those new to the sport and who were just beginning their training for the collegiate season.
Both races would feature competitors from across all divisions. A qualifying standard, potentially based on a swimmer’s mile time in the pool, has yet to be announced.
“It opens itself to the kids who know they like it,” Campbell said. “Personally as an athlete, if I would’ve had an open water avenue to go down, I would have definitely done it. Back when I was a swimmer it wasn’t around, it wasn’t an Olympic event but it has become more mainstream into the aquatic culture. Now we will give an opportunity to athletes who have experience in it, but then also maybe there are some athletes that think it sounds interesting and will go ahead and try it. It’s a trip to Lawrence, Kansas and allows them to see KU’s campus and the community, and test their ability in open water competition.
“I think out of this you will see current and future national team members and possible Olympic medalists that come through the National Collegiate Open Water Swimming Championship. It’s all about giving opportunity and experience and putting our athletes in situations where they can grow and develop and really enhance their student-athlete experience.”
Campbell worked with Keith Browning, Douglas County’s Director of Public Works and County Engineer, to present the request. KU’s coach estimates the event could bring 150-200 athletes, 30-50 coaches and 30-50 support staff to the area and lake, located approximately 10 miles southwest of Lawrence. Lone Star Lake, which has a small recreational swimming area, has hosted large events in the past, including the swimming portion of triathlons and concrete canoe races.
Further details and updates about the event will be posted at KUAthletics.com and at CSCAA.org when they are made available.
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.