Kansas Looks to Improve After Setback in Big 12 Conference Meet
AUSTIN, Texas—A mix of emotions filled the Kansas bleachers during the first session of the Big 12 Championship meet Wednesday night. As the swimming and diving team warmed up in the Jamail Texas Swimming Center competition pool, suited into the new technical suits and did the traditional cheer, a sense of excitement and confidence filled the Jayhawks.
The mood was quickly changed during the first event, as a disqualification on the Kansas relay was announced. With just two events on Wednesday, a solid start was crucial to how things might unfold in later days. Things turned around in the second event, as the KU relay swam a close race to finish third in the 800-yard freestyle relay.
The excitement and hype of a championship meet began before the meet officially started, as Texas sophomore Jack Conger set a new NCAA, U.S. Open and American Record in the 200-yard butterfly at time trials. The Rockville, Maryland, native finished the race in 1:39.31, eclipsing the national record of 1:31.65 previously shared by Michael Phelps (2010) and California’s Tom Shields (2013 NCAA Championships).
“It’s a really cool way to start the meet,” Kansas head coach Clark Campbell said. “Jack is a very gifted man and he joins an elite class, only he and Michael Phelps have broken the 1:40 barrier in both the 200 fly and 200 free. It’s great to see the next generation of America’s finest coming up through the Big 12.”
The 200-yard medley relay team of Yulduz Kuchkarova, Bryce Hinde, Leah Pfitzer and Pia Pavlic kept up with Texas, finishing just two seconds behind the Longhorns and in front of Iowa State’s A relay. After the team finished in 1:39.67, the disqualification was announced.
“It was a rough way to start the meet, but those things happen and you have to find a way to battle back and overcome that,” Campbell said. “We went on with things as normal and tried to keep things as relaxed as possible. When you have things come up like that, you have to make sure emotions are held in check and focus on doing your job. It was not our best night, but our better days are ahead.”
In the 800-yard freestyle relay, Texas quickly took the lead. The battle for second place between Kansas, Iowa State and TCU lasted the first half, until the Jayhawks and Cyclones pulled ahead. Relay anchors Sammie Schurig and Kasey Roberts swam neck and neck for the final 200 yards. In the end, Kansas’ (7:17.50) team of Haley Molden, Chelsie Miller, Hannah Driscoll and Schurig finished a hundredth of a second behind ISU (7:17.49) for third.
“I was really happy with how Sammie and Chelsie swam that relay,” Campbell said. “Haley and Hannah were a little nervous and weren’t quite where we needed them to be, but it was their first race. Every met you have, there’s a race that’s not where you want it to be. They’ll watch their swims on video and learn from it.”
After the first night, Texas leads the pack with a score of 80, followed by Iowa State (68), West Virginia (62), TCU (58) and Kansas (32).
Thursday morning’s events include the 500-yard freestyle, 200-yard IM and 50-yard freestyle, beginning at 10 a.m. 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 Thursday night at the finals session.
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