Texas A&M, Texas Split Big 12 Championships

Day 4 results
Full Results
Day 3 recap

After four days of intense competition at the 2010 Big 12 Championships in College Station, Texas the Texas A&M women and Texas men swam away with the conference crowns. For Texas, it was their 14th straight Big 12 title, in other words all of them, and for the A&M women it was their third win in the last four seasons.

Women’s Meet

On Friday, Texas narrowed A&M’s lead to 44 points, and looked poised to make a charge at Texas A&M on Saturday’s final day of competition. A&M quickly quashed those hopes in the 200 backstroke, the first event of the day, when they scored four A-finalists, led by senior Kristen Heiss. Heiss finished comfortably ahead of the field in 1:53.58. She was followed by teammate Emily Neal, who finished in 1:54.22. Texas’ Katie Riefenstahl finished third.

The 100 freestyle was much the same story for the Aggies. Heiss’ senior classmate Julia Wilkinson finished in first, and in the process broke her own meet record with a time of 47.74. This mark is the second best in the country this season, behind only Julia Smit of Stanford (47.70). Texas’ Karlee Bispo finished a half-second back in 48.20, and third place went to A&M’s Sarah Woods in 48.93.

After these first two events, the Aggies extended their lead to 96 points, and effectively put Texas away. Despite having a comfortable lead, the Aggies didn’t let up, and continued their onslaught.

In the women’s mile, Texas’ Leah Gingrich finished first in 16:09.66. She was pushed the whole way by A&M freshman Maureen McLaine, who actually held a .04 second lead at the 1000 yard mark. After that point, Gingrich turned on her motor and was able to put some distance between herself and McLaine. Gingrich’s winning time was 16:09.66, and McLaine finished second in a school record16:12.98. A&M’s Casey Hurrell-Zitelman, the former school record holder, finished third in 16:22.35, and Liz Nelson finished fourth to round out a very strong showing for the Aggie distance crew.

In the 200 breaststroke, A&M’s Alia Atkinson completed the breaststroke double in a dominating 2:08.07. This broke her own Big 12 meet record by over half a second, which she set last year as a member of A&M’s non-scoring squad. Texas freshman Laura Sogar finished in an A-cut time of 2:10.31. Sogar’s time is the third best by a freshman this season. Texas’ Spindrift Beck, another freshman, finished third in 2:11.68.

In the 200 fly, Texas’ Kathleen Hersey absolutely crushed the Big 12 meet record in the 200 fly by finishing in 1:53.69. The old record of 1:55.18 was held by her teammate Gingrich. Hersey, a sophomore, was the runner-up at last year’s NCAA Championships in the event, but did not swim it at the Big 12 Championships. A&M’s Rita Medrano finished second in 1:55.85, and Missouri’s Colleen Gordon finished third in 1:58.33.

In the 400 free relay, Julia Wilkinson did it once again for the Aggies. Going into the final leg, the Aggies were .66 seconds behind, but Wilkinson turned in a scorching 47.27 split to pull ahead and give the Aggies a comfortable win in 3:15.23, ahead of Texas’ 3:16.02.

Janie Potvin won the platform diving competition to cap off a great meet for the freshman. Potvin finished second on both springboards, and first on platform.

Women’s Awards

For her efforts, which included three event wins, and coming from behind as the anchor leg to lead A&M to three relay victories, A&M senior Julia Wilkinson was named the Big 12 Championship Swimmer of the meet. Wilkinson has won 20 career conference championships, which is more than any other female athlete in conference history.

An honorable mention goes to the rest of Wilkonsin’s teammates in the senior class. As one of the most accomplished classes in school history, the last day of the championship was a microcosm of how important this group has been to the Aggies’ success. In 5 individual events, the Aggies won 3. All three were won by seniors (Wilkinson, Heiss, and Atkinson). In addition, the 400 free relay that the Aggies capped off the meet with was a group of four seniors: Heiss, Ella Doerge, Sarah Woods, and Wilkinson. After winning three conference titles in four seasons, this group will be the group against which all future successes of the team will be measured.

The Big 12 newcomer of the meet went to Laura Sogar. Sogar, one of the top freshman breaststrokers in the country, finished second in both breaststroke distances and was a part of two winning relays.

A&M’s Jaele Patrick, who won both springboard events, took home women’s diver of the meet honors, and Jay Lerew, in his first year at A&M, won the women’s diving coach of the year.

A&M head coach Steven Bultman won his seventh Swim Coach of the Meet award after leading A&M to their third conference crown in four years.

Men’s Meet

The places were pretty well locked-up by the final day of the men’s meet, but there was still plenty of fast swimming left to be swum, and plenty of records to be broken.

In the 200 backstroke, freshman Austin Surhoff won another event in dominating fashion. Although he sat in third place at the halfway point, he quickly erased that deficit and went on to win by over a second. His winning time was 1:41.72, and he was followed by Missouri’s Jan Konarzewski, who finished in 1:42.89. Texas’ Tim Johnson was third in 1:42.97.

In the 100 freestyle, it was once again Jimmy Feigen time. He was pushed the whole way by teammate Dave Walters, and the two were nearly even at the 75 yard mark. Feigen threw out a great final 25 split to pull away and take the title in 11.18. Walters was second in 43.22, and Scott Jostes finished third in 43.25.

Texas’ Jonathan Wilcox broke 15 minutes in the men’s mile with a scorching time of 14:55.96. This gives Wilcox the eighth fastest time of the season, but is still 14 seconds off of his time from last season’s Big 12’s. This is a good indactor that Wilcox did not rest very much for this meet, and could potentially have a huge time drop to finish in the top 4 at NCAA’s.

In the 200 breaststroke, Eric Friedland came into the final with the top seed, but just barely. His teammate Nick D’Innocenzo and A&M’s Bryan Snowden were close behind. It turns out that Friedland was just toying with his competition during the prelims, as he turned on the burners and finished in 1:54.32, a Big 12 meet record. D’Innocenzo finished well back in second at 1:55.95, and Snowden third in 1:57.16.

The 200 butterfly championship final saw only six swimmers compete, but those six were led by an outstanding time from Texas’ Ricky Berens. His 1:43.17 broke his own meet record, set at last year’s Championship, and give him a win by over two seconds. The runner up was his taemmate Hill Taylor in 1:45.25, and third-place went to A&M’s Tyler Welch in 1:47.64.

This all set up for a very exciting 400 free relay to end the meet. A&M’s Balazs Makany opened up a huge lead over Dave Walters to start off the race, which was somewhat surprising. His split of 43.35 was a huge drop off of his individual swim earlier in the meet, and Walters’ 44.38  was much slower than his. Walters handed off to Berens, who made up some ground on A&M’s Casey Strange, although both men had great splits. Berens clocked in at a 42.65, and Strange in 43.25. Going into the third leg, A&M was nursing a .43 second lead. Coming out of the third leg, A&M was still nursing a .43 second lead, as John Dalton and Texas’ Jameson had identical splits of 43.26.

This set up a great finish between Texas’ Feigen and A&M’s Boris Loncaric. Feigen is one of the fastest 100 freestylers in the nation, but Loncaric is an experienced and fierce competitor, and the question was whether or not he could hang on to the narrow lead his teammates had built. Feigen flew into the lead in the first 50, but coming into the final touch, but looked as though he might have gone out too hard. Loncaric actually began to gain ground in the last lap, but ran out of time, as Feigen hit the wall for a final time of 2:52.77, to the Aggies’ 2:53.03. When reviewing the splits, the difference between the two squads came down to the relay starts. Texas’ .26 second win was more than accounted for by their .31 second advantage in the three relay starts.

In platform diving, Matt Cooper became the third male diver to win an event in the meet when he took a spectacular victory with 434.60 points. Greg Destephen of Missouri finished in second with 346.65 points, just sneaking ahead of his teammate Dante Jones with 344.65.

Men’s Awards

Texas’ Ricky Berens was the much-deserved winner of the men’s Swimmer of the Meet award. He won two individual events, and was a part of two winning relays for the Longhorns. This is Berens’ first Big 12 Swimmer of the Meet award, although he did win the National Swimmer of the Week award in October. His wins included a Big 12 meet record on the final day in the 200 fly.

The men’s newcomer of the meet award had the most obvious winner in Texas’ Austin Surhoff. In his three individual events, Surhoff won two and was runner-up in a third. He also broke two Big 12 meet records in the IM events (although he was eclipsed by teammate Bryan Collins in the 400).

Jay Holmes completed the sweep of Swim Coach of the Meet awards for the Aggies when he scored the men’s nod. Despite a runner-up finish in the meet, his swimmers broke numerous school records and finished well above their seeds.

The male Diver of the Meet and Diving coach of the meet awards were split by the Longhorns and Aggies. The diving winners were A&M’s Grant Nel (first in 3-meter, runner-up in 1-meter) and Texas’ Drew Livingston (first in 1-meter, runner-up in 3-meter). Their coaches Matt Scoggins (Texas) and Jay Lerew (Texas A&M) split the coach award.

Final Standings

Men’s Standings

1. Texas 1086
2. Texas A&M 826
3. Missouri 740

Women’s Standings

1. Texas A&M 1002
2. Texas 903
3. Missouri 484
4. Kansas 416
5. Iowa St. 338
6. Nebraska 261

NCAA Outlook

Heading into the NCAA Championships in March, both Texas and Texas A&M have emerged as contendors for top three finishes. A&M has a good chance to score in every single event, as well as legitimate national title contenders in five or more events. They will also have the experience and motivation, as it  will be the last collegiate meet for the majority of A&M’s top swimmers, specifically seniors Kristen Heiss, Julia Wilkinson, and Alia Atkinson.

The Texas women will be very topheavy, which is not necessarily a deal-breaker at NCAA’s. They will be lead by their stars Leah Gingrich, Kathleen Hersey, and Karlee Bispo, with some contributions from Katie Riefenstahl and their breaststroke squad (Laura Sogar, Alexi Spann) possible. If Texas hopes to contend for a title, these women are going to have to carry the Longhorn squad.

As for the rest of the conference, Kansas’ Iulia Kuzhil is a probable scorer in both backstroke events, and Missouri could get some points out of Colleen Gordon (500/1650) and Lauren Lavigna (200 backstroke) with very good tapers. Missouri could get a consolation final out of their 200 free relay, but it will take a very good effort.

On the men’s side, Texas is a serious candidate for the national championship. They are loaded, with multiple top-16 times in almost every event. They have big-name swimmers, like Feigen, Berens, and Walters, and some lesser known guys who will fly under the radar to big points, like Surhoff and Collins. Simply put, the Longhorns have a little big of everything, and are looking very strong to avenge their second-place finish last year.

The A&M men always have a good deal of success in the relays, and this year should be no different, but this season the Aggies will have a great opportunity to score in several individual events. Loncaric, Malkany, Snowden, and Enriquez could all final in multiple events, and backstrokers Bergstrom and Denisyako could score with a good taper. The Aggies will almost certainly improve off of their 12th place finish last season, and could sneak as high as seventh or eighth with a good taper.

Missouri’s Jan Konarzewski is the Tigers’ best bet to score, in his specialty the 200 backstroke. He currently has the 13th best time in the nation in the event.

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And now with the Pac 10 coming up the NCAA picture is starting to clear up a little bit!

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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