Big XII Champs Kick Off With Relays, Diving on Day 1

Braden Keith
by Braden Keith 4

February 25th, 2010 College

Day 1 results
Day 2 Recap

The first day of the Big 12 Swimming and Diving Championships kicked off in College Station, Texas today. The only events were the 200 medley relay, 800 free relay, and men’s 1 meter, but there was plenty of excitement loaded into those five events.

Women’s Meet

The swimming kicked off with the women’s 200 free relay. At the end of each of the first three lengths, a different team had the lead. The race came down to the two favorites, Texas and Texas A&M, and a darkhorse, Kansas, who was seeded fifth coming into the event. Kansas’ Iullia Kuzhil gave her squad the lead after the backstroke by turning in a great split of 24.77. Texas was in second, and Texas A&M was in third. A&M’s Alia Atkinson, one of the top two or three breaststrokers in the nation swam a 27.12 to vault the Aggies into the lead at the midway point, with Kansas and Texas in almost a dead heat for second. Texas’ Kathleen Hersey pounded the field in the fly in 23.19, which gave the Longhorns the a .6 second lead over A&M and Kansas. A&M’s Maria Sommer had the fastest split in the freestyle, 22.26, but it wasn’t enough to chase down Bethany Adams and Texas, who won the relay in 1:38.30. A&M finished second in 1:38.70, and Kansas third in 1:39.35.

The 800 free relay was just as exciting for the women, and was a star-studded race. A&M’s Kristen Heiss led off for the Aggies in 1:45.26, just ahead of Karlee Bispo at 1:45.40. Melissa Hain stretched out the lead for the Aggies ever so slightly, with a 1:46.35 to Leah Gingrich’s 1:46.47. In the third leg, Katie Riefenstahl made up the difference and broke open a second-plus lead for Texas over A&M freshman Maureen McLaine. The anchor leg was a showdown between the superstars of each team: Julia Wilkinson of A&M and Texas’ Hersey. It only took about 85 yards for Wilkinson to make up the 1.13 second deficit, and Wilkinson used the rest of the race to pull away and give the Aggies a solid victory. Her final split of 1:43.41 gave A&M a total time of 7:01.63, an NCAA automatic qualifying time, and Texas finished in 7:02.10.

Hersey having previously swum the 200 medley relay, whereas Wilkinson was fresh in her first event of the day, may have contributed partially to how quickly Wilkinson overtook her, but it was clear that the Aggie senior was not going to be denied the victory either way, as the lead was too convincing to be written off merely to fatigue.

Men’s Meet

On the men’s side, even though there are only three programs, there was no lack of great competition. In the medley, A&M nearly pulled an incredible upset over Texas. Senior experience paid off over freshman talent to lead off the race, when A&M’s Jason Bergstrom swam a 21.71 to give him a slight lead over Cole Cragin (21.83), who is a year removed from breaking the national high school record in the 100 backstroke. Scott Spann took the lead back for the Longhorns with a split of 23.81 in the breaststroke, over A&M’s Amini Fonua, who went a 24.15. Boris Loncaric (20.49) jumped back into the lead for A&M over Hill Taylor (20.90), with a .19 margin for the Aggies heading into the freestyle leg. Both teams have great sprinters anchoring their relays, but Texas’ Jimmy Feigen is quite simply one of the best all-out sprinters in the NCAA this year, if not all-time, and swam an untouchable 18.48. A&M’s Casey Strange went a 19.16 for the Aggies, which is also an outstanding split, but Texas came away with the win in 1:25.02 to A&M’s 1:25.51, both of which are NCAA ‘A’ times. A&M’s time tied their school record, which they set at the Austin Grand Prix last year.

The 800 free relay was never in question, as Texas won by over 10 seconds in 6:15.75, the top time in the nation so far, led by an incredible 1:32.49 leadoff by Ricky Berens. That individual 200 time is nearly a second better than the next best time in the nation this season, which will make Berens the odds-on-favorite to win the race in March. Texas’ big win was unsurprising, as the Longhorns have long excelled in this particular event.

A&M, although they were well back of the leaders, were still proud of a great swim in an event that they have not historically been very good in. The Aggies’ time of 6:25.94 was a school record by nearly 4 seconds off of the old mark of 6:29.81 set in 2004. Additionally, Balazs Makany led the relay off in 1:35.10, which cut over a second off of his own school record of 1:36.21, giving the Aggies three school records in only two events.

In the diving, Texas’ Drew Livingston won the men’s 1-meter springboard with a score of 415.75, which is a Big 12 Championship record. Livingston is the defending national champion in the event. A&M’s Grant Nel finished second with 375.15, and Missouri’s Dante Jones finished third.

Scores

Men’s Scores
1.    Texas    113
2.    Texas A&M 110
3.    Missouri    107

Women’s Scores
1.    Texas A&M 74
1.    Texas    74
3.    Missouri    62
3.    Kansas    62
5.    Iowa State    54
6.    Nebraska    28

Outlook

The results on day 1 set up well for the A&M women. Out of the top-gun on each team, Wilkinson and Hersey, Hersey has already used 2 of her 4 relay allotments, whereas Wilkinson has only used 1. This means Wilkinson can swim in all of the remaining relays, but Hersey will sit one out. Still, this meet is exactly what we expected it to be: extremely tight, and no front-runner has had the chance to emerge yet. We will begin to get a better picture after tomorrow’s events of exactly who will swim which events, and maybe be able to get a better idea of who is the “faovrite”, used loosely.

The big race to watch tomorrow will be the 200 IM, where we will get another potential showdown between Wilkinson and Hersey. In our preview, we predicted a Wilkinson win (if the race happens), and today’s results reaffirmed that notion in our minds. The races are won in the water though, so we’re still excited to see what happens.

For the men, the Aggies appear to have had a stellar taper based on day 1 results. They’re still not going to challenge Texas for the title, but don’t be surprised if there’s some unexpected results.

On the Longhorns’ official website, Coach Eddie Reese commented that “”I think Jimmy Feigen was the only one happy with his split on the 200 medley relay.” This is an indication that Texas didn’t get off to a great start, but their goal for the meet is to make sure they qualify everyone that they need to qualify to have a shot at NCAA’s, and they should take care of business in that respect.

The races on the men’s side to watch are the 500 free, where we will see a showdown between Texas’ Jonathan Wilcox and A&M’s Omar Enriquez. Wilcox is a stud in the distance events, but Enriquez has been swimming great all season, and as a freshman is an unknown quantity come taper time. Also, in the always exciting splash-n-dash 50 freestyle it will be great to see how fast Feigen can go after his amazing relay split.

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anon

feigen is good but has zero claim to best of all time.

a&m set their 200 mr team rec at austin gp

Chris

Very nice review of day one Braden. Fun to read.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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