The Texas Longhorns hold solid leads over their counterparts from the University of Arizona after the first day of a two-day dual meet that began on Friday in Tucson.
The women’s meet is still within range, with the Longhorns leading 105-81, but the men’s score sits with the Longhorns nearly doubling Arizona so far, 121-65.
The Arizona men struck first with a bit of a hodge-podge 200 free relay, topping Texas’ A 1:20.51-1:20.66. For Arizona, the group was Kevin Steel, Mitchell Friedemann, Jeff Amlee, and Brian Stevens, and included a 19.8 split from Friedemann and a 19.7 from Stevens.
With Brad Tandy still not eligible to swim collegiately for Arizona (though he did swim some exhibition races on Friday), Arizona has had to look for some unique faces for this relay. Steel and Friedemann, while both no slouches as sprinters, are best-known for other strokes, while Amlee and Stevens are both having career years at the right time. Arizona’s media department still has no answers on Tandy’s eligibility, but if the Wildcats can continue to hold off relays like Texas at NCAA’s, it bodes well for them.
Texas took 2nd in that race with a 19.86 from freshman Jack Conger as their only sub-20 second split.
Though Arizona took the first blood, Texas took over the point lead by ripping off wins in the next three individual events. That began with a 3:55.59 from sophomore John Martens in the men’s 400 IM, topping Arizona’s Eric Solis and a 3:57.60. Texas freshman Austin Vacek, who had a breakout start to his second semester, which was his Texas competitive debut, was 4th here in 3:58.91.
Next up came the men’s 100 free, where the Longhorns took two of the top three spots. That was led by Clay Youngquist in 44.82, with Arizona’s Brian Stevens (45.00) and Texas sophomore John Murray (45.24) just behind. Friedemann was 4th in that race in 45.45, and Texas’ Matthew Ellis, who transferred in from Georgia this year and whom they hoped would help stabilize their sprint group, was just 5th in 45.69.
Jack Conger then took the men’s 200 back in 1:47.18, beating Arizona’s Michael Sheppard (1:47.90) and Michael Meyer (1:48.32) in the process. Conger’s had much more success in this 200 in the spring semester than in the 100: a race on which he enters the Arizona meet with a two-dual losing streak. That race will go on Saturday.
Arizona snapped the Longhorns’ winning streak with a solid 1:58.15 from the defending NCAA Champion Kevin Cordes in the 200 yard breaststroke. Texas’ Will Licon made a strong statement in 2nd with a 2:00.32, though he was almost even with Cordes going into the last 50 yards.
That swim from Cordes would be the Arizona men’s only individual win on the first day. Tripp Cooper and Jack Conger, both Longhorns, battled in the 100 fly to a 1-2 finish, with Cooper winning in 48.71 and Conger taking 2nd in 48.81.
Arizona’s Giles Smith is the top-ranked swimmer in the country in this event so far this year, but we’ve only seen him race at one meet in the spring semester so far – a meet that included a 51.3 in the 100 yard fly that is far from his best. He’s one of a few guys for Arizona who are a bit dinged up – sophomore freestyler Kelly Moodie hasn’t raced yet this semester and didn’t swim Friday either.
In the last individual event of the day, Texas sophomore Sam Lewis won the men’s 500 free in 4:26.70. While that’s certainly not his best time of the season, it’s enough to lend some credibility to reports of a blazing 1000 free done in an intrasquad meet last weekend at home.
Texas then closed the swimming portion of the session with a 3:14.83 in the 400 medley relay to Arizona’s 3:15.11. Texas used Kip Darmody on their backstroke leg, where he split 48.14, and left the versatile Conger swimming fly in 47.10. They also got a very fast split from John Murray on their anchor of 44.17.
Arizona got a very strong 53.64 breaststroke split from Kevin Cordes.
Texas got a good boost as well from sweeping the diving events, with both the 1-meter and 3-meter springboards running on Friday. Will Chandler took the 1-meter, and Mike Hixon took the 3-meter against Arizona All-American Rafael Quintero.
The women’s meet was significantly closer on day 1, with each team winning half of the day’s 10 women’s events, including one relay victory a piece. The difference thus far for Texas to hold a 24-point lead going into the second day of competition lies almost entirely in diving, where a very deep Texas group swept the springboards and had a combined margin of 29-9 across two events.
In the lanes, Arizona was hot early to win 3 of the first 4 events of the meet. That began in the women’s 200 free relay, where the Wildcats posted a 1:31.22 to win in a nail-biter over Texas’ 1:31.39. The two teams were in a dead-heat going into the last exchange, before Gracie Finnegan was a 22.62 on the anchor to out-touch Texas’ Sam Tucker.
An interesting development for the Arizona women is that this marks the second-straight meet in which the event has been offered that Arizona has used Bonnie Brandon in their 200 free relay. She’s best known as a distance freestyler and a 200 backstroker, but Arizona has looked good, in mid-season terms, with her in this relay. They also got a 22.43 from Margo Geer on the 2nd-leg, which helps.
Texas freshman Madisyn Cox continued her impressive rookie year with a 4:18.38 in the women’s 400 yard IM, beating out teammate Kaitlin Pawlowicz and her 4:20.34. Cox had a very good breaststroke leg to separate herself from her teammate. She was a 1:12.7 on that split.
Geer dove in for a 2nd time in this meet in the next race, the 100 free, and came away with another very good result, winning in 49.81. Finnegan was 2nd in 50.66, and Texas’ Alex Hooper was their highest finisher in 50.67.
Brandon was back in more of a specialty event in the fourth women’s event, swimming a 1:58.31 to win the 200 yard back. Texas’ Tasija Karosas took 2nd in 2:00.14.
Junior Gretchen Jaques swam a 2:13.82 to beat Arizona’s top breaststroker Emma Schoettmer (2:15.43) in the 200 yard race. Jaques has great speed, and she used it to take a big head-start in the first half of this event.
Arizona’s Ashley Evans earned the first upset win of the night in the women’s meet, winning the 100 fly in 54.69, to top Texas captain Ellen Lobb (54.78) and Texas freshman Brynne Wong (55.34).
Brandon then came back not long after her first win to post a second win, this time in the 50 free. She and freshman teammate Tjasa Oder battled down to the wire, but a gutsy swim by Brandon overtook Oder in the last 25 yards to take the win.
The Texas women locked up a split in the day’s relays by taking a 3:39.96-3:40.07 win in the 400 medley: another down-to-the-wire race. This time, it was Hooper who was able to hold off almost another come-from-behind-victory from Arizona. Geer split a furious 48.65 on Arizona’s anchor, but Hooper’s 49.50 was just enough with the lead that the Longhorns had.
Most of that lead came on the breaststroke leg, where Jaques again looked dominant. She split a 1:01.87 to Schoettmer’s 1:03.02.