This was a very important diving competition for both Texas and Texas A&M. A&M’s Janie Potvin was the defending champion in the event, and A&M sorely needed a win from her. Texas’ Maren Taylor had other ideas though. Potvin and Taylor fought back and forth the whole competition, but a fantastic final dive worth 77 points by Taylor sealed the victory for her in a score of 331.25. Potvin was second in 320.80, and Texas’ Cullinan was third in 319.05. A 1-3-5 finish for Texas got them off to a great start on a very important final night of competition.
200 yard backstroke
Missouri’s Dominique Bouchard made comments during Day 3 of the Big 12 Championships that under new coach Greg Rhodenbaugh, she felt like the team had finally found a coach that they could be confident in, and her buying into the system finally paid off in this race. She Won the 200 back in a Big 12 Conference Record of 1:52.02, which broke her own mark set earlier this year in 1:52.35. Texas A&M’s Lindsay King jumped out to an early lead, but Bouchard had very close to a perfect race and actually negative-split the race, which is rarely seen at this level.
At the touch, it appeared as though King would be handily second, but she was very long on her finish, where as Missouri’s Lauren Lavigna was perfect. As a result, Lavigna just barely nipped King for the silver by the slimmest of margins: Lavigna’s 1:54.18 bested King’s 1:54.19 by .01 seconds.
100 yard freestyle
This was an event that Texas expected to dominate. They qualified 6 swimmers into the A-final, and their top swimmer, Karlee Bispo, dominated her way to a full-second win (47.98). This time ranks her fifth in the country, while waiting for the result of Pac-10’s, and is her third individual event win of the meet. A&M’s Maria Sommer did exactly what she needed to do, though, and finished second in 48.83. Despite her efforts, Texas had the 3rd-6th place finishers, and opened up a sizable, 90+ point lead over A&M after this race.
It wasn’t time for the Aggies to panic, however, as in the next event, the 1650 free, they expected to do at least the same right back to Texas.
1650 yard freestyle
In the final, pre-seeded heat of the women’s 1650 free, A&M needed big things from their young, impressive distance group. This charge would be leaded by Maureen McLaine and Sarah Henry, in the middle of the pool. The two were able to pace and feed off of each other throughout the race, but didn’t have a good look at Texas’ Natalie Sacco. Sacco was lurking at the far side of the pool in lane 1, and led about the first half of the race. At that point, the two-headed monster of McLaine and Henry surged forward.
It became pretty obvious over the next 600 yards that the two are training partners, as they stayed almost identical through the next 600 yards. But at that 1300 mark, McLaine’s experience and finishing strength kicked in, and she pulled away from Henry. She ended up touching first in 16:13.41. Sacco looked for an instant as though she had another move in her, but Henry held her off to take second in 16:17.06, which is her best time of the season by 6 seconds. Sacco took third in 16:18.66.
A&M didn’t score as well as they had expected in this race, but still cut their deficit to under 20 points.
200 yard breaststroke
Texas’ Laura Sogar and A&M’s Breeja Larson were locked in another outstanding battle in the 200 breaststroke, just like they were on Day 3 in the 100. Sogar got out to an early lead, but Larson’s superior pullouts kept her in the race. At 150 yards, the two were about even, but just like in the 100, Sogar was able to gain the advantage on the race’s final turn. She kept a strong turnover for the duration, while the younger Larson clearly fatigued, and touched first in 2:07.60. This smashed the championship record set by 2010 NCAA Champion Alia Atkinson at last year’s meet. Sogar had previously tied that mark (2:08.07) in prelims. This time was still not her best on the season, which she set a few tenths faster at December’s Texas HOF Invitational.
Larson, besides pushing Sogar, also finished in her own strong mark of 2:08.33. She is ranked 5th overall in the country this season, and is the fastest freshman in the country. In another disappointing touch, A&M was outtouched by another Missouri Tiger, with Amanda Masters (2:11.90) knocking off Aggie freshman Erica Dittmer (2:12.01) on the very last stroke for third.
400 yard freestyle relay
Texas knew in this race that the only thing they had to do to claim the Big 12 title was to safely finish this 400 free relay. But they did much better than that, and despite employing very safe starts, Texas still managed to break the Big 12 Championship Record in 3:14.41, which is the third-fastest time in the nation. After Bispo led the Longhorns of in 48.01, the Aggies never had a chance in this race. They came home in 3:16.51, which should be plenty fast enough to get them to NCAA’s. Missouri was third in 3:19.99.
Texas held on for a slim, but valid, 17-point win to win the 2011 Big 12 Championship. This was A&M’s meet to take, but they lost too many tight races, and really felt the absence of their best diver. Both teams swam fantastically in this meet, and the Longhorns earned every single one of their 948 points to win this meet.
Missouri definitely showed sparks of improvement under new coach Greg Rhodenbaugh, but they are still a few years of strong recruiting away from being able to compete at the top. Kansas’ senior class, possibly the best the program has seen in some time, led them to a strong 4th-place showing, with Nebraska and Iowa State finishing 5th and 6th, respectively.
Check back tomorrow for a complete meet wrap-up, along with our awards.
1. Texas 948
2. Texas A&M 931
3. Mizzou 588.5
4. Kansas 409.5
5. Nebraska 305.0
6. Iowa State 176.0