Swimmers to Topeka, Divers to Texas, Looking to Divide and Conquer

LAWRENCE, Kan. – The middle of the season is a challenging time for Jayhawk swimmers and divers who deal with an assortment of ailments including fatigue, sickness and injury. This weekend, head coach Clark Campbell and diving coach Brian Pritt hope to see the team challenge not only the competition, but also itself. The team splits up for two separate invitational meets, where they hope to persevere through the mental and physical obstacles. The swimmers host the third annual Kansas Classic at Capitol Federal Natatorium in Topeka Nov. 21-23, and the divers travel to Austin, Texas, for the Texas Diving Invitational Nov. 20-22.

The divers take to the boards Thursday, beginning with the three-meter prelims at 12:45 p.m. with finals set for 6:30 p.m. On Friday, one-meter prelims begin at 11 a.m. with finals to follow at 5 p.m. For the first time in the 2014-15 season, Kansas will compete on platform on Saturday, Nov. 22 at 10 a.m. All diving competition is held at the Jamail Texas Swimming Center and finals will air live on the Longhorn Network and ESPN3. Live scoring for all prelims and finals sessions can also be found at DiveMeets.com.

Sophomore diver Graylyn Jones, who qualified for NCAA Zone D diving in the second meet of the year, leads the team in scoring on the one-meter boards. The team of five divers is still young—two sophomores and three freshmen—and Pritt sees this meet as a stepping stone to a season of improvement.

“We’ve had some difficulties in the past couple weeks,” Pritt said. “Everybody’s getting sick, injuries, whatever. I just hope they compete strong. I don’t have any expectations as far as the outcome, but I don’t want them to defeat themselves by going there and having a little bit tougher competition than they’ve seen and talk themselves out of it.”

Freshman diver Nadia Khechfe faced a minor setback, hitting her hand on the board while warming up before KU hosted Big Ten competitor Illinois November 8. Khechfe is the only diver on KU’s diving team to have practiced platform prior to diving for Kansas, and Pritt hopes her confidence has been restored since the injury.

“Nadia’s coming back strong,” Pritt said. “I do hope she gets up there again and competes and gets over her mental fear of her hands. It’s just a little bit of pain that she has to deal with, but mentally that’s a lot. It has set her back, but we’ve made big strides this week. She’s done well.”

Out of the diving well and into the competition pool, the Jayhawk swimmers welcome Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Nebraska-Omaha and Tabor College to a championship-style meet. The event at Capitol Federal Natatorium in Topeka will follow the NCAA-championship order of events, slightly different than the Big 12 order. The three days of racing will include a prelims session (beginning at 10 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m. Sunday) and three heats of finals per individual event (beginning at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday).

“(Schedule-wise) it’s pretty much just like conference,” Campbell said. “We hope to swim and get our best time possible in the morning, then at night we go for glory. Especially for our freshmen, it’s more of learning what the whole college championship meet thing is.”

With fellow Big 12 rival Iowa State in town, Campbell expects them to bring tough competition. Currently, Iowa State’s team ranks fourth in the Big 12 and Kansas is second behind Texas, according to CollegeSwimming.com. The Iowa State team is bringing 27 athletes to the Kansas Classic, while KU has just 21. Three swimmers from Kansas’ squad—Chelsie Miller, Lindsay Manning and Madison Straight—boast five NCAA top-100 times thus far. Iowa State sprinter Amanda Paulson ranks third in the Big 12 with a time of 23.28 50-yard freestyle and seventh in the 100-freestyle clocking in at 51.68.

“They have a little bit of an advantage on us number-wise going into the meet, but that’s just one thing,” Campbell said. “It’ll be a really good competition, and we’re excited about competing against them. They’re a fellow Big 12 rival and we have a pretty good competition. Each team gets excited about racing each other, so it’ll be a fun and very competitive atmosphere.”

The Jayhawks, now 5-1 in dual meet action, last competed against a tough Illinois team, out-touching the Illini in the final relay to win, 154-146. The Jayhawks have faced a series of strong teams, including Denver, who handed KU its first and only loss of the season, and TCU, who was narrowly defeated by Iowa State, 157-143. Regardless of the dual record, Campbell is pleased with where the swimmers are at thus far in the season.

“(At the Kansas Classic) I’d like to see us faster than we’ve been all fall, which is a good challenge because we’ve been pretty fast,” Campbell said. “We’re going to rest a little bit, they’re not going to put on the technical suits—so it won’t be exactly like it’ll be at conference—but they’ll get a chance to swim fast and feel good, and see how close we can get to those lifetime best times with technical suits. Hopefully it will be a good confidence-boost before going into the championship season.”

Hosting the meet in Topeka invites many high school and club swimmers to watch a showcase of collegiate swimming and admission to the Kansas Classic is free. Capitol Federal Natatorium hosts both boys’ and girls’ high school state meets as well as several Missouri Valley championship meets.

“If you’re a competitive swimmer you’ve most likely done meets in Topeka,” Campbell said. “It’s fairly centrally located so we’re hoping a lot of our younger swimmers that have college aspirations come out and get to check out what a college meet is like.”

Live results for the Kansas Classic can be found on the Meet Mobile app, available on both Apple and Android devices.

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