Jayhawks Set to Host Big Challenge, KU Dive Invite
LAWRENCE, Kan. – As the fall semester is approaching its final days, the Kansas swimming and diving team is prepared for its version of athletic midterms. After three weeks of dual meets, the Jayhawks will be tested on their progress at a pair of local weekend competitions – the Big Challenge in Topeka and the KU Dive Invite at Robinson Natatorium in Lawrence. Both events are three-day, championship-style meets held Nov. 20-22.
The Big Challenge begins with prelims at 10 a.m. Friday at Topeka’s Capitol Federal Natatorium in Hummer Sports Park and is a first of its kind event for the swimming world. The triangular, championship-format event will feature three pairs from the Big 12 – Kansas and Iowa State – the Big Ten – Illinois and Nebraska – and two Mid-Major schools – Northern Iowa and Nebraska-Omaha – competing for individual and conference glory. The structure of the meet will mirror the Big 12 Championships with prelims and finals being conducted in each of the three days – Friday’s finals will begin at 6 p.m., with Saturday following the same time slots. Sunday’s competition in Topeka will be held at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
“The dual meets have more of a training focus and evaluation component where as championship meets are more of a midterm,” head coach Clark Campbell said. “The dual meets are like quizzes, where you get to see where you are and now this meet is really more of a midterm exam. We’re about half way through the season, so we want to just evaluate where we are so that as we go into the next phase of getting ready for Big 12s, NCAAs and qualifying for the Olympic Trials, we’ll know what we need to do better.”
Following each day of the Big Challenge, both individual team scores as well as combined conference scores will be announced. At the end of the three-day event the team with the most points will win the overall meet, while the conference with the most points combined will also be crowned a victor.
“There is that component where we all want to compete well against each other, but we also get to compete for something above ourselves,” Campbell said. “The Big 12, when you look at it, it’s above Kansas and above Iowa State; the same goes for the other teams as well. So we all get to race for a little bit of a higher purpose and for a little bit of pride for the conferences. It’s something different and fun.”
To make this meet as championship-like as possible, the squads will be wearing technical suits during this weekend’s races, this will be the first time since the inception of the event in 2012 that teams will be allowed to race in their technical suits. One of the only things that will differentiate the Big Challenge from a Big 12 championship meet is that swimmers are allowed to enter in a maximum of nine races instead of the standard seven.
“With this being the first year that we are wearing the technical suits I see a lot of pool and meet records being broken,” Campbell said. “I have been so impressed this season seeing how fast our athletes have been, whether it’s us or other teams, how well they have done in normal dual meet suits. When you throw on the layer of the technical suit, with a fast tank and with the teams racing for a higher purpose, we could have some really special performances.”
Of the six teams competing, 19 swimmers combine for 33 times in the nation’s top 150 times in their events. The talented field will have at least one swimmer ranked in the top-150 in 13 of the 18 events this weekend, including six Jayhawk swimmers contributing to those top times in the nation.
Kansas heads into this weekend of competition with a 3-1 dual meet record, most recently tallying a win against Nebraska, who is now 3-2 on the year. Both Illinois and Iowa State have recorded just one loss in the 2015-16 season. UNO has registered a 2-4 record and UNI is 5-3.
While the swimming team will be looking for a victory in Topeka, the diving squad will host the KU Dive Invite inside its own Robinson Natatorium. The invite will include four of the six teams competing at the Big Challenge – Kansas, Iowa State, Northern Iowa and Nebraska-Omaha – but will be scored independently.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun (being able to host a dive invite in Lawrence),” Kansas’ diving coach Gabe Downey said. “It allows us to be free and easy, we’re here at home, our routine doesn’t change and that allows us to be a little more seamless. The girls will be more confident going into the first prelim because they know everything about this place. It’s a nice competitive advantage, a fun advantage and it’s easier for parents and fans to get to watch.”
Much like the Big Challenge, the KU Dive Invite is set up to be conducted much like the NCAA Zone Diving Championships. The three-day event will have prelims each morning and finals in the afternoon. Each day will headline a different diving event – one-meter on Friday, three-meter on Saturday and tower on Sunday. The divers’ scores from prelims will carry over to finals, just like it does at NCAA’s.
Both the Big Challenge and the KU Dive Invite are free events.
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