400 yard medley relay
In a race where neither of the top two teams, Texas or Texas A&M, had a single senior on their relay (and in fact, none of the six ‘A’ relays had more than one senior), it was the relative experience of Texas junior Karlee Bispo on the freestyle leg that made the difference. The Aggies and the Longhorns were incredibly tight through the touch on the butterfly, with A&M holding a very slight lead, but Bispo broke off an awesome 47.23, as compared to an also fantastic 47.89 for freshman Liliana Ibanez, to give the Longhorns the victory. Their final time was 3:30.52, which is the fastest time in the country this season. A&M was second in 3:31.04, which is an automatic NCAA qualifying time and third-best in the country this season.
Both squads had some incredibly impressive splits in this relay. On the backstroke, A&M’s Paige Miller swam a 52.37, which is even faster than her top-seeded prelims mark. Both breaststrokers, Laura Sogar from Texas (58.46) and Breeja Larson from A&M (58.29) both had unbelievable splits, which sets up a great individual battle later in the session.
Missouri was also very quick on this relay for a third-place finish in 3:35.59. That relay is a freestyler away (they were anchored in 49.97) from being very dangerous, but this time looks to be on the positive side of the bubble.
In a meet that has been largely dominated by freshman, diving is no different. Missouri freshman Loren Figueroa, who was the runner-up on this board at the recent Winter Nationals, took the victory with a score of 333.15. This was well clear of A&M’s Janie Potvin, who took second in 317.05, but secured an important win over Texas’ Maren Taylor (314.60).
Texas, with four scorers compared to A&M’s two, to cut the Aggies’ lead by 20 points.
400 yard IM
In what is quickly becoming the theme of the meet, youth reigned supreme again in this 400 IM. This race had the same top-two-freshmnen finishers as the 500 free on day 2, but with the order swapped. A&M’s Sarah Henry won in 4:05.48 and in the process crushed her own school record that she set earlier this season at the Georgia Tech Invitational. She also broke Kathleen Hersey’s Big 12 Championship record from 2009. Her teammate Cammile Adams was second in 4:07.64, which is also under the old Championship Record, and broke her lifetime-best by 3 seconds, after dropping it by 3 in prelims. A&M completed the sweep with a third-place finish from Alyssa Conner in 4:10.51.
The only non-Aggie finisher in the top 5 was Kansas’ Stephanie Payne (4:11.94), who had a great breaststroke leg to hold off A&M’s Melanie Dodds, who was 5th.
100 yard backstroke
The 100 back broke the common adage that whoever wins the third quarter of a swim wins the race. Texas’ Kelsey Amundsen jumped out to a solid lead at the 50-yard mark, but then was creamed on the third 25 by A&M’s Paige Miller. In fact, she had the slowest third-25 of anyone in the race, and it wasn’t close, to fall all the way back to 5th place. But she was just biding her time, and came off of the final wall with a ferocity reminiscent of the recent launch of the space shuttle Discovery. She closed the race in the fastest split in the field, and touched the wall first in 52.54, which is one of the top 10 times in the country this season. Miller finished second in 52.84, and A&M’s Kendra Chernoff was third in 52.97.
Texas got the win in this race, but A&M won the war and extended their lead.
200 yard freestyle
In a meet overrun with freshman and sophomores, Texas’ Karlee Bispo stands out, as a relatively veteran junior, and is possibly having the best meet of them all. Two years ago, in 2009, she stood as one of the best freshmen in the Big 12, and that year she set the Big 12 Championship Record in the 200 freestyle at 1:43.69. Two years later, she finally broke that mark again in this race, with a winning time of 1:43.59.
She had clean water throughout the race, as nobody else was even close to her. This was the first event where experience really won out, and the silver medal will be shared between two of Bispo’s teammates: senior Adrienne Woods and junior Katie Riefenstahl with matching times of 1:46.19. Texas completed their domination of this event with a 4th place finish from Samantha Tucker (a youngin’ finally getting in on the fun). Texas A&M’s Liliana Ibanez, who had the second-fastest time in prelims, did not look her best in finals to take 5th in 1:47.12. Still, her 1:46.0 from prelims should be plenty to earn an invitation to NCAA’s (though she’ll probably qualify on a relay anyways).
100 yard breaststroke
As we alluded to earlier, this 100 yard breaststroke lined up as one of the best races of the meet. In the prelims, A&M freshman Breeja Larson had the upper-hand over Laura Sogar as both bettered the old Big 12 Conference record in (Larson in 59.2, Sogar in 59.3). Again in the medley relay, Larson was better. Even through the first 75 yards of this race, she held the slimmest of margins over Sogar. But on the last turn, Sogar made her move. Larson’s youth and inexperience showed as she lost her bearings on the final wall, pushing herself tight up against the lane-rope. This came after two great turns that were all that was holding her in the front of the race.
Sogar, in the meantime, powered through her first few strokes and pulled away. It took Sogar 280 yards of racing on the day to beat Larson, but on the last 20, which were the most important 20, she was first to the wall. Her final time made her the first Big 12 swimmer ever under a 59 in 58.83: second best in the country. Larson never recovered from that bad turn, but still posted a very good time of 59.37, which gives her the two best times in school history and makes her the fourth fastest in the country this season.
A&M’s other great freshman breaststroker, Erica Dittmer, was third in 1:00.97. Missouri were actually the overall winners in the team scoring in this event, but Texas was able to extend their lead over A&M.
100 yard backstroke
Texas A&M’s Paige Miller prevailed in the 100 yard backstroke, marking the third individual event win from the third different Aggie freshman in this meet. This was her third swim of the night, including a difficult double shortly after placing second in the 100 fly, and she rose to the challenge in 52.65. This was a touch slower than her prelims time (52.5) that was a new school record. Texas’ Jessica Guro was solid in a runner-up finish of 53.17, and A&M’s Tess Simpson was third in 53.22.
This was one of Missouri’s best chance of stealing a win in this meet, as they have a very deep, fast, and confident backstroke group led by Dominique Bouchard. Her 53.42 was good for 5th, but was off of her best time of the season. She and teammate Lauren Lavigna will be the top two seeds in the 200 back, tomorrow’s first event, and will be hoping for a much higher finish there.
A&M holds a narrow lead with only one day of competition left. Unfortunately for the Longhorns, the fourth day of the Big 12 schedule is by far the Aggies’ strongest. Out of the 6 individual events tomorrow, A&M will be favored to win 4 of them, including defending platform champion Janie Potvin, and will have depth as well. For the Longhorns to be able to fight back and win this meet. Texas will win the closing 400 free relay, which they will always have at the back of their minds. But it will take at the very least a 6-A-finalist performance in the 100 free (which is surprisingly doable) and some assistance from their northern opponents in the 200 back (swimmers from Kansas and Missouri hold the top 3 seeds) to fight off the Aggies.
Both teams have swum very well thus far this meet, which has produced probably the fastest Big 12 Championships ever, so it’s unlikely to expect either team to collapse. If both teams continue with the great swims that they’ve put up so far, this meet should be won by A&M, but swim meets aren’t won on paper, so stay tuned for an exciting finish.
1. Texas A&M 635
2. Texas 628
3. Missouri 433.5
4. Kansas 260.5
5. Nebraska 217
6. Iowa State 109