Jayhawks Claim Freestyle Festival Win Over Mavericks, 99-41
OMAHA, Neb. – Another Chelsie Miller victory, a pair of quick finishes for Lindsay Manning, an impressive start for the freshman class, and a hint at a return to top form for Haley Molden were among the many highlights for Kansas swimming and diving as the Jayhawks topped Nebraska-Omaha, 99-41, at the HPER Pool in an unconventional format Monday night.
The freestyle festival format consisted eight total events with each team allowed to count just three competitors per event towards the team score and each individual athlete only allowed to score in one event. It didn’t seem to affect the Jayhawks much as KU saw victories in the four individual events, two relays and one of the two diving events.
“I kind of liked it, it was fun for the team and definitely different which was good,” Kansas head coach Clark Campbell said. “It didn’t play to our strength as a team – we’re built for different stroke events and individual medleys – it took our athletes out of their comfort zones. It was a good way to kick off the year, a low pressure event. I thought we did really well handling the unknown.”
One seemingly constant for the Jayhawks is 2014 Big 12 Swimmer of the Year Chelsie Miller on the winner’s stand. Miller posted a big win in the 500-yard freestyle – her fifth or sixth best event according to Campbell – by edging Manning by nearly six seconds to claim the victory and 11 points in 5:01.44. Manning, a sophomore, earned four points with the second-fastest 500-yard time of 5:07.19 and freshman Nika Fellows rounded out the scoring top three with a time of 5:15.96.
Although not among the scorers in the 200-yard freestyle, Manning swam a 1:57.03 to turn in another top-five performance during the meet.
“Lindsay Manning was terrific,” Campbell said. “Both (times) were faster than what she went at the Big 12 meet. It’s great to have her back. She had a tremendous fall and we’re looking for her to keep rolling, training hard, racing well. She’s a totally different person than she was last year.”
KU freshman Hannah Driscoll claimed the top scoring spot in the 100-yard free style with a time of 53.30, followed closely by senior Deanna Marks at 53.81. Driscoll arrived at Kansas in the summer as the Colorado state record holder in the 50 and was one of several standout freshman performers Monday night.
“I was really pleased with all nine (freshmen),” Campbell said. “It wasn’t exactly swimming to their strengths, and you add all the different things with the training and the new program and being away from home. They did a really nice job and it was a good way to start of the year for them. It shows us we have a lot to build with going forward.”
Driscoll was plugged into a talented returning unit on the 200-yard medley relay and helped that relay team win the event in 1:45.87, a time that would have ranked among the top-five for Kansas last season. Campbell is excited about the possibilities the team of Yulduz Kuchkarova, Bryce Hinde, Pia Pavlic and Driscoll present.
“That relay is going to go a long ways, and it’s going to be a relay that does a lot of damage at the Big 12 and NCAA level,” Campbell said. “Each day Hannah learns something new and is excited to be a part of that relay. All four of them take a lot of pride in the 200 medley because it generally kicks off a dual meet and gets us off to the right foot. It’s going to be a relay that does some special things this year.”
One of just a few Jayhawk juniors, Molden cruised to a victory in the 200-yard freestyle, clipping UNO’s Natalie Renshaw by a little more than three seconds to win in 1:52.10. Molden swam a blistering 26.60 first split and stayed in the mid 28 second range for each 50. The Topeka native swam at the Olympic Trials before arriving at Kansas in 2012 and appears to be returning to that top form.
“She’s so far ahead of where she was last year at this time,” Campbell said. “I’m so pleased with how she’s performed and is rounding back into form she had her freshman year. This swim and what she’s been doing show signs that she’s going to be a heck of a lot faster, and peak a lot better than she’s done in the past.”
Among other positive results were top marks by the Kansas divers on the 1-meter board. Graylyn Jones won the 1-meter event with a score of 237.44, followed by Nadia Khechfe (223.20) and Sydney Power (213.06). Jones had the second-best score on the 3-meter board but all three had already counted towards the team tally.
Kansas will open the home portion of its schedule – which features seven meets at Robinson Natatorium and two additional meets in nearby Topeka, Kan., and Liberty, Mo. – on Oct. 24-25 against Denver and Missouri State, who will also bring their men’s squads to compete in a separate dual. All Kansas swimming and diving meets are free and open to the public, with live scoring available in the Meet Mobile app.
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