Meet Records Fall on First Day of Big Challenge

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TOPEKA, Kan. – Fast suits and an added boost swimming for conference pride led to 14 meet-record breaking swims – seven in prelims and seven more in finals – at the Big Challenge in Topeka’s Capitol Federal Natatorium Friday. After just five events, with the record book peppered, the Big Ten conference led with a combined score of 512.5 points, with the Big 12 (409.5) and Mid Major (123) squad trailing.
The first day of the triangular championship-style meet didn’t disappoint as handfuls of meet, season and career records were broken in both the prelims and finals sessions. In the individual team standings, Nebraska was on top with 298.5, then Kansas (236), Illinois (214), Iowa State (173.5), Northern Iowa (77) and Nebraska-Omaha (46).
It was the 50-yard freestyle that highlighted both the morning and evening sessions of the first day. Kansas freshman Haley Bishop made a statement in finals after swimming into third place with a time of 23.06, improving her previous mark by nearly a second. Nebraska’s Taryn Collura, lowered a meet mark she set in the morning session, and was one of two swimmers with NCAA B qualifying swims in the event with a 22.75.Haley Bishop
“Haley Bishop’s 50 free was absolutely awesome,” Kansas head coach Clark Campbell said. “That was a lifetime best by quite a bit. A really well put together race.”
In the 50 free prelims, any of the top-six times of the event would have broken the previous meet record set by Amanda Paulson of Iowa State in 2012 (23.37), but Collura turned in the fastest time (22.77).
Ten total heats wasn’t enough to contain the excitement in the sprint prelims, as Kansas’ Haley Molden, a senior swimming in her hometown, and Northern Iowa’s Crystal Florman were called back to the starting blocks for a swim off after both registered a time of 23.84. With all eyes on the competition pool and room for just one more swimmer in the finals, Florman edged out Molden by a hundredth of a second in the shootout and secured the final spot. Despite not making finals, Molden’s performance in the swim off tied her career-best time of 23.58.
Friday’s finals picked up where the fast prelims left off with a meet record in the 200-yard freestyle relay. Nebraska topped their previous record of 1:34.18 with a swim of 1:30.92, while Kansas’ A relay registered a season-best 1:33.49 with a fourth-place finish and the B relay took sixth (1:34.69).
Illinois’ Gabbie Stecker took down the second meet record of the finals session in the 500-yard freestyle swimming a 4:48.76 in the distance race. The Jayhawks were well represented in the A final, outnumbering their opponents with three competitors in the event. KU’s top performance came from sophomore Nika Fellows who registered a 4:54.17, her best time of the year.
Molden’s prelims swim in the 500 free earned her the second seed in the finals with a career-best time of 4:53.35, while leading her heat by nearly 30 seconds. Junior Sammie Schurig, another Topeka, Kansas native, also made the A final, but swam her best time in prelims (4:55.49).
Kansas’ Chelsie Miller kept the excitement coming with a photo-finish race in the 200-yard individual medley. After earning the fastest time in prelims, Miller took the finals race by four-tenths of a second with a season-best mark of 2:01.24, out-touching Nebraska’s Anna McDonald in second and Iowa State’s Kasey Roberts in third place, who were separated by a couple hundredths of a second. The Kansas All-American’s swim earned a NCAA B standard in the event.
“Chelsie getting her B cut in the 200 IM is really important,” Campbell said. “It takes the pressure off of Big 12s and we can just focus on getting her into the meet and she can swim that at the NCAAs.”
KU sophomore Hannah Driscoll recorded a career-best time while qualifying for finals in the 50 free, swimming a 23.68 and beating her previous mark by one-tenth of a second. Zoya Wahlstrom also registered a career-best time of 24.88 in the events prelims.
The night ended with the 400-yard medley relay and another meet record from Nebraska. The Huskers won the relay in a time of 1:30.92, breaking their previous record of 1:34.18. The Jayhawks A relay took fourth after a head-to-head fight with Illinois for most of the race. The team, made up of Bishop, Molden, Driscoll and Yulya Kuchkarova, swam a 1:33.56 in the event.
“Today was a mixed bag, we had ups and downs both this morning and tonight, which is typical for a championship meet,” Campbell said. “But we also had some really good performances.”  
The Jayhawk swimmers schedule will look similar tomorrow with prelims starting at 10 a.m. and finals at 6 p.m. in the second day of the three-day meet. Six events will be conducted tomorrow inside Capitol Federal Natatorium and admission will be free to the public. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.