KU Starts Strong at First Day of Big 12s
AUSTIN, Texas – Not this time. A 200-yard medley relay that returned three members with fresh wounds from an early disqualification a year ago found redemption, finishing second and registering a season-best time to kick off the 2016 Big 12 Championships Wednesday evening inside Texas’ Jamail Swimming Center. Kansas finished second in both relays as the league meet opened and sat in second place with 68 points, behind Texas (80) and in front of Iowa State (64). TCU and West Virginia were tied for fourth after two events.
Kansas’ medley relay returners Yulya Kuchkarova, Bryce Hinde and Pia Pavlic used help from freshman Haley Bishop to begin this year’s league meet with a clean slate. The quartette finished the race with a season-best swim of 1:40.10, while shaving more than a second off of their previous time.
“I think everyone was kind of nervous after last year, getting a relay disqualified,” head coach Clark Campbell said. “They felt a little pressure to make sure they didn’t do that, but we swam really well. Pia’s fly leg was fantastic. She swam a 23.89 split, swimming a really put together 50 which sets her up for the week.”
Kuchkarova started the medley with a strong backstroke swim putting the Jayhawks in a comfortable position. Hinde and Pavlic were able to maintain the momentum in the breast and fly before Bishop sealed the second-place finish, swimming a split of 22.88 in the freestyle. The Longhorns won the event in a time of 1:36.32, while setting a new school record in their home pool.
A 45-minute break in-between relays directed the crowd’s attention to the men’s one-meter diving competition where Texas senior Cory Bowersox took first, scoring 397 points in finals. Bowersox’s teammate Sean O’Brien (392.80) and West Virginia’s Michael Proietto (328) rounded out the top-three.
The evening finished with the 800-yard freestyle relay where senior Chelsie Miller posted a strong anchor to help the Jayhawks clinch another second-place finish. The first two legs conducted by Bishop and Sammie Schurig were neck-and-neck with conference foes, TCU and Iowa State. The Cyclones began to pull away during freshman Breonna Barker’s leg before Miller erased the deficit and moved into second place. The Jayhawks finished behind Texas (7:00.41) with a time of 7:16.84.
“Both relays were really solid efforts,’ Campbell said. “They were season-best performances and a really good way to start the meet.
“Heading into tomorrow, we have to have really good swims. That’s critical in a championship meet. For us to accomplish our team goals you really have to get it done in the preliminaries because that’s what sets you up for the evening session. So we need to be ready to come in and swim fast in the morning.”
Before the meet was officially underway, a series of time trials took place after the morning practice swims. The event gave participants an extra opportunity to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Freshman Libby Walker was the sole Jayhawk to take the starting blocks in the event, swimming as the only competitor in the 200-yard butterfly. Walker raced alone against the clock and solidified a NCAA ‘B’ cut with a season-best swim of 1:59.36. She will have another chance to improve her time when she competes in the event later on in the week.
After a small sampling of the conference’s best swimming, the league meet will resume Thursday morning at 10 a.m. with the 500-yard freestyle, 200-yard IM and 50-yard freestyle events in store. At 1 p.m., the women take the one-meter boards. The top-24 swimmers from the morning will advance to finals beginning at 6 p.m. The 400-yard medley relay will race during the evening session.
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