Day 3 of the Big 12 Championships continued to roll around, but there were three notable absences on the women’s side.
The first was Kansas senior Abigail Anderson. She was named our Big 12 Breakout Swimmer of the First Semester in December, but has been ruled academically ineligible, which has ended her final season in Kansas. She was having a great season, and would have been a factor in both the 100 back and 100 fly for the Jayhawks.
The other woman absent was Texas’ Leah Gingrich. She swam the 500 free on Thursday, where she was on Texas’ scoring roster, but didn’t have a great performance. She was then absent from the 400 IM. We haven’t heard any explanation for what the situation was there, but if she’s absent again from the 200 fly on Saturday, then there’s some reason for concern. Best guess as of now is that, with the team title seeming out of reach, the Longhorns chose to let her rest for a good run at the 200 fly – which is the smart move.
On the men’s side, Texas’ Pat Murphy, didn’t compete in the 100 backstroke. He’s a potential NCAA scorer in the race, but is recovering from a foot injury. He’s holding off until the last-chance meet next weekend to try and give his foot as much time as is possible to heal before going for NCAA qualifying times.
Women’s 400 Medley Relay
The A&M women added to their 200 medley relay victory with a win in the 400 medley with the quartet of Paige Miller (52.44), Breeja Larson (57.11), Caroline McElhany, and Kim Pavlin (49.23). Their total time of 3:31.02 shaved .02 off of last year’s school record in the event.
This relay was pretty good last year, though not as good as the 200, but this year’s group looks to be fantastic. The improvements of Miller and Larson are a big part of that, as is McElhany’s addition to the relay (she’s a Texas transfer, and though she joined the program last year she didn’t really settle in until this year). This might be the best first-three in the country (neck-and-neck with Cal), though they still are unstable on the anchor.
The Texas women took 2nd in 3:33.86. That included a strong anchor from senior leader Karlee Bispo in 47.63. Missouri’s 3rd-place finish of 3:36.17 was punctuated by Shara Stafford’s 51.88.
Men’s 400 Medley Relay
For only the 3rd time in Big 12 history, the Texas men were upset in this 400 medley relay as A&M took the win in 3:08.92. The group of John Dalton (47.46), Amini Fonua (52.94), Boris Loncaric (46.53), and John Dalton (41.99) won the race by about a yard over Texas’ best group, that finished 2nd in 3:09.44. Dalton actually outsplit Texas anchor Jimmy Feigen (42.06), which will be a huge confidence boost for him headed towards NCAA’s, where he should be a three-event individual scorer: something this A&M team has been lacking the past few seasons.
Despite finishing 2nd, Texas can’t be unhappy with with their swims. Senior Neil Caskey’s butterfly leg split of 46.42 is as fast as he’s ever been; and Cole Cragin had a solid leadoff in 46.83.
Eric Friedland split a 54.15, which is where the Longhorns fell behind in this race. He’s certainly capable of a 52 at NCAA’s though, and if he does that there’s not much concern there. This is also a pretty weak race nationwide, and there will be very little competition outside of Arizona, USC, and maybe Auburn.
Missouri took 3rd in 3:12.41, including a 46.65 from Neil O’Halloran on the fly leg. With him, Loncaric, and Caskey, among others, swimming very well, a great 100 fly race was set up for later in the session.
Women’s 400 IM
This women’s 400 IM was a bit of an uneventful race, setting up as the calm-before-the-storm that was the rest of the session. Texas A&M sophomore Cammile Adams won in 4:08.88 – she was faster at this meet last season, but didn’t improve much at NCAA’s – which gave her a 6-second margin of victory. With defending event champion Sarah Henry redshirting, and 2010 champion Leah Gingrich strangely not swimming the event, Adams had no competition for the title.
Her A&M teammate Alyssa Conner took 2nd in 4:14.58, followed by Texas’ Kaitlin Pawlowicz in 4:14.67.
Men’s 400 IM
Just like the women’s race, the men’s 400 IM was a runaway. Nick D’Innocenzo won in 3:45.77. Like many of his teammates, D’Innocenzo is unrested, which puts him in position for an A-final at NCAA’s.
Missouri’s Yaniv Shnaider took 2nd in 3:49.97. He was almost two seconds faster mid-season, and it seems as though the Missouri coaches were rolling the dace that his 3:48.2 from mid-season will be enough to get him in to NCAA’s (it will be borderline).
Women’s 100 Fly
A&M’s Caroline McElhaney continued to thrive in College Station and took her first career individual Big 12 Title in 52.92. As a high school student, she just barely missed the semi-finals in the long course version of this event at the 2008 Olympic Trials. She’s steadily improved in short course since then, but is finally hitting her potential this season.
In 2nd and 3rd were A&M’s Paige Miller (53.32) and Lily Moldenhauer (53.71). This is turning into a nice intrastate rivalry, as the two sophomores have very similar event schedules. They would have another matchup later in the session in the 100 back.
Men’s 100 Fly
As advertised, this 100 fly was a great race. Missouri’s Neil O’Halloran was unable to match his speed from the medley relay, so he wasn’t much a part of the excitement, but A&M’s Boris Loncaric, Texas’ Neil Caskey, and Texas’ Jimmy Feigen were stroke-for-stroke at the 75-yard mark. Coming off of the final wall, however, Loncaric started to push ahead of his opponents, and touched first at the wall in 46.72.
Caskey was 2nd in 46.79, and Feigen 3rd in 46.94.
The fade at the end of the race from Caskey and Feigen is sort of typical of a “tired” championship swim. When the pair is able to erase that on their year-end taper, we’re going to get some great times from them.
Texas freshman Tripp Cooper continued a great meet with a 4th-place finish in 47.53.
Women’s 200 Free
In one of the more anticipated head-to-head battles of the meet, Texas’ Karlee Bispo and Missouri’s Shara Stafford, both seniors, squared off in this 200 freestyle.
The race lived up to expectations, as the pair flipped at the 150 just .02 seconds apart. As the swimmers raced for the finish, it was Stafford who got to the wall first in 1:44.13. That put her ahead of Bispo’s 1:44.33 (slower than her leadoff from the 800 free relay on Wednesday).
Neither swimmer swam as good of a time as they might have wanted, but that’s likely a byproduct of a great race. Stafford was pushed to take the swim out probably a bit faster than she would have liked, but it still worked out for her in the win.
Based on seeds, this was a race that Texas could have made up a lot of ground on the Aggies with. In actuality, though, A&M put another 13 points between them and the Longhorns, and pushed their lead well past 100 points.
Though Texas has a few more swims on the final day of the meet available to them, and A&M won’t dominate the platform as much as they have the springboards, the lead after this event becomes nearly-insurmountable, barring a huge collapse on the final day.
Men’s 200 Free
Texas’ Dax Hill kicked off his quest for a first NCAA Championship in this 200 free with a strong Big 12 Championship win in 1:34.55.
Interestingly, Hill (at least for this meet) has gone back to his “start hard, hang on tight” strategy that he used for most of his sophomore season. He did the opposite in last year’s NCAA A-final (paced the front half, and closed much better), and that carried him to a silver medal. Watch to see if he reverts to that strategy again next month, or if he forces the pace early against a much weaker national field this season.
Freshman Clay Youngquist, swimming in his best event, swam a 1:35.30 for 2nd. Even unshaved, that’s the fastest flat-start by any freshman in the country this season. Texas finished off a 1-2-3 with a 1:36.05 from Kyle McNeilis.
A&M took the next three spots, led by John Dalton in 1:37.15. That’s a good, not great, time from him, but his anchor split from the medley foreshadowed a bit better from him.
Women’s 100 Breast
There was huge anticipation for this swim after Texas A&M sophomore Breeja Larson broke the NCAA Record in the 100 breaststroke in prelims, despite being unshaved (and unrested, according to coach Steve Bultman).
With a lot focused on the medley relay, it would have been a challenge for her to repeat that performance on a 2nd swim at an unshaved meet, but she still swam admirably in 58.39 for the championship. That ties as the 10th-fastest performance of all time, by a college swimmer or not, in yards.
The whole field was slower than they were this morning, having perhaps been worked up by the national record. Texas’ Laura Sogar took 2nd in 1:00.31, and freshman Gretchen Jacques took 3rd in 1:00.70.
The Texas women did make up a bit of ground in this event, despite Larson’s win, but the lead for A&M still stood at 106.
Men’s 100 Breast
The Texas A&M men took their 3rd Big 12 Championship of the day when senior Amini Fonua won the 100 breaststroke in 53.58. This capped off arguably the most successful day of a Big 12 Championship meet in program history.
Fonua took the race in a runaway, though he was a touch slower than his 53.44 that was a new school record in prelims. He and Loncaric became the 2nd and 3rd swimmers in school history to take two Big 12 titles in the same day (the other was legendary Candian Matt Rose in 2003).
The runner-up was Missouri’s Igor Kozlovskij in 54.43. He was slower than his mid-season school record in the event. That time is another “bubble” swim for NCAA qualification, but he’s only a freshman and will undoubtedly have a bright future whether he makes the meet or not. He was one of 4 Tigers in the top 6 of this event (and 5 in the A-Final).
Eric Friedland was Texas’ only A-Finalist, and he placed 3rd in 54.64.
Women’s 100 Back
Round two of Miller-Moldenhauer was just as exciting as round one, and the outcome was the same (but a spot higher) – Paige Miller took the Big 12 Championship in 52.99 ahead of Moldenhauer’s 53.22. Moldenhauer had the lead on the first turn, and held that until the last 13 or 14 yards. Then, Miller pushed past her and with a good touch took the win.
Missouri 2oo yard specialist Dominique Bouchard was 3rd in 53.38.
Moldenhauer was Texas’ only A-finalist, as compared to 5 for A&M. At that point, the lead stretched all the way to 148 points.
Men’s 100 Back
Texas’ Cole Cragin just about matched his medley relay time with a 46.90 win in this 100 back to close the 3rd day of competition. Texas freshman Kip Darmody, following the lead of his classmate Youngquist, took 2nd in 47.37.
Another freshman Neil O’Halloran took 3rd in 48.44. Missouri again loaded up this race with 5 A-Finalists.
Standings After Day 3 (of 4)
1. Texas A&M 717
3. Missouri 451
4. Kansas 243
5. Iowa State 223
1. Texas 684.5
2. Texas A&M 582
3. Missouri 516.5