Kansas Places Third in Big 12 Conference Championship
AUSTIN, Texas—A total of seven silver medals—two by Yulduz Kuchkarova, three by Chelsie Miller and two relays—boosted the morale for Kansas swimming and diving, but were not enough to overcome Iowa State for second place at the 2015 Big 12 Swimming and Diving Championship. On the final day of the league meet held at the Jamail Texas Swimming Center, Kansas finished in third place with 589 points behind Iowa State (618.5) and Texas (1,082.5). West Virginia claimed fourth place (481) and TCU (458), fifth.
Even with strong swims on the remaining three days, the Jayhawks could not make up for lost points due to a relay disqualification on the first night of the Big 12 Championship and several other out-touched races. After swimming 83 percent of the races in season-best times during Saturday’s preliminary session, KU returned nine to compete in the top-eight finals. An additional eight swimmers and divers scored points for the team, placing in the top-sixteen.
After placing third in the 200-yard backstroke at the 2014 Big 12 Championship, sophomore Yulduz Kuchkarova came back to swim the event and take silver in 2015. Kuchkarova broke the pool record in the KU’s home pool of Robinson Natatorium earlier in the season, swimming a career-best time of 1:57.83, and in the finals heat on Saturday night, clocked in a new career-best time of 1:56.16. It was the second-fastest time in KU history and helped her place second overall. Teammate Madison Straight, who entered finals seeded sixth with a time of 1:59.17, moved up one place to finish in fifth overall with a new career-best time of 1:58.94.
“Yulduz was solid in the 200 back,” Kansas head coach Clark Campbell said. “She had a really good meet. She’s come along to have a great season. She’s had a big year and now it’s time to get focused on World Championships in July and the Olympics in 2016.”
Hannah Angell, who placed fourth in the 100-yard backstroke Friday night, and Sammie Schurig swam the 200-yard backstroke in the consolation finals heat. Angell finished with a time of 2:00.90 to place 11th overall, and Schurig finished in 2:02.95, 15th.
Pia Pavlic took nearly one second off her 100-yard freestyle time to earn a trip to the A finals seeded sixth in 50.77. In the A final, Pavlic lowered her time by three-hundredths to finish in 50.74, and move up to fifth place overall. Teammates Haley Molden and Hannah Driscoll placed 11th and 14th overall, with times of 51.50 and 52.36, respectively.
Kansas’ distance swimmers made racing one mile look easy, as they took over the event finishing in second, fifth, and sixth place. Chelsie Miller, who swam the event in a school-record breaking time of 16:09.00 at the NCAA Championships in 2014, finished second overall swimming a time of 16:13.03. Freshman Nika Fellows, her second time swimming the event all season, finished in fifth place overall with a time of 16:47.75. Lindsay Manning finished in sixth with a time of 16:57.17. In total, the Jayhawks earned 44 points from the distance team’s effort.
“(The mile) was a really good race overall,” Campbell said. “Coach Jen Fox does so much with all of them, I have to give credit for her for all her work with the distance swimmers. Chelsie’s 1,000 split was the school record, she wasn’t able to come back as fast as she did at NCAAs last year, we haven’t tapered yet, but it’s a really good mile for Nika and Lindsay and a tremendous effort by all three of them.”
All three breaststrokers were able to advance to the A finals, earning top-eight honors in the 200-yard breaststroke. Lydia Pocisk got to the wall fifth with a new career-best time of 2:14.98—the second-fastest time swum by a Jayhawk. Bryce Hinde, who set a new school record in the 100-yard breaststroke Friday night, finished in seventh place overall with a time of 2:17.63. Gretchen Pocisk swam career-best time of 2:17.71 in the morning, but went up to 2:19.92 in the evening to finish 8th.
Chelsie Miller took down her third school record in the 200-yard butterfly at finals, lowering her own career-best time of 1:58.58 to finish in 1:58.53. West Virginia’s Julie Ogden (1:59.13) put up a good fight against Miller, but it was Miller who came out on top with the silver medal, second to Texas’ Kelsey Leneave (1:56.21). Senior Deanna Marks swam to a season-best 2:05.55 in the morning, finishing in 2:05.76 in the evening for 12th place, her final race as a Jayhawk swimmer. Leah Pfitzer finished in 2:07.91, over a full second faster than her preliminary swim of 2:09.22, to place 15th.
“What a great meet for (Chelsie),” Campbell said. “I’m really looking forward to see how she does at NCAAs. She’s going to go home and rest for a couple days and we’ll get ready for NCAAs in a couple weeks.”
On the diving platform, Nadia Khechfe was tied for seventh place with Iowa State’s Julie Dickinson (192.45) after five dives. Advancing to the finals for five more dives, Khechfe maintained seventh place to finish with a score of 180.60. Amanda Maser finished in 10th place with a score of 188.15, Graylyn Jones in 14th with a score of 170.05, followed by Sydney Power in 16th with a score of 149.05.
“On the one meter, neither of us were real happy,” interim diving coach Gabe Downey said. “Three meter I thought she did better but she still wasn’t very pleased. Getting someone in the finals to score team points is terrific. To see that smile on her face and knowing she feels that sense of accomplishment, going into the off-season as we start to train for Zones, knowing that her hard work can pay off and be successful is great. I’m really happy with the progression by all the girls over this meet. I’m so happy with how they did as a group, and for Nadia specifically it was really fun.”
Kansas entered the final event of the evening, the 400-yard freestyle relay, trailing Iowa State by 11.5 points. The relay team of Kuchkarova, Pavlic, Molden and Marks secured a second-place finish to Texas in a time of 3:23.83, out-touching Iowa State who finished in 3:23.96.
“This was a really good meet,” Campbell said “We were there physically, but we made too many mental mistakes. With our team being 75 percent freshmen and sophomores, I’m really excited to see what the future holds. We’ll use this to motivate us and be better next year.”
The Big 12 Conference Championship was the final meet that the 2014-15 Kansas team, holding a 9-3 dual meet record, competed together. Divers Graylyn Jones and Khechfe will continue their season at the NCAA Zone D Diving Championship March 5-7 in Iowa City. Miller will compete at the NCAA Swimming Championships in Greensboro, N.C. March 19-21.
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.