By Wendell Barnhouse | email@example.com Big12Sports.com Correspondent
The Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center, host of this week's Big 12 Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Championships, is known as one of the fastest pools in the world. Six women's and three men's teams hope to prove that claim is correct.
On the men's side, Texas will be going for an amazing 32nd consecutive conference title. The Longhorns, also the defending NCAA champions, have 11 All-Americans on their roster. This is the sixth year that UT will host the Big 12 Championships but the first time since 2008.
Texas A&M's women's team hopes to defend its 2010 Big 12 Championship by relying on a strong core of returnees and an exciting batch of newcomers. The Aggies have won the Big 12 title three times.
The Aggies' main competition for the women's title figures to come from Texas, which is ranked No. 4 nationally and will be trying to win its 10th conference title.
Preliminary diving events begin on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., with the swimming relays kicking off at 6 p.m. Preliminaries for all events from Thurs.-Sat. start at 10 a.m., with diving finals starting at 5 p.m. (Friday and Saturday) and swimming finals at 6 p.m. (daily).
Fox Sports Network (FSN) will broadcast the event on tape delay.
Iowa State women Senior Jeli Nixt has finished no lower than fifth in the 100 breaststroke her previous three trips to the conference championships. Sophomore Dani Harris led the Cyclones with 21 event wins during the regular season and will be looking to get on the medal stand in the backstroke events. Senior Jenny Vondenkamp will also be a Cyclone to watch, she will be competing in the distance races. Junior Sarah Nelson has been Iowa State's top diver this season, leading the Cyclones on 1-meter and platform.
Kansas women The Jayhawks will look to improve upon their fourth place finish at last year's Big 12 Championships. Iuliia Kuzhil, a senior from Cherkasy, Ukraine, looks to qualify for the NCAA Championships again through her finishes in the 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke events. Newcomer Alison Lusk also looks to place highly in the breaststroke events.
Missouri women Led by senior captains Francie Szostak and Morgan McCleery, the Tigers look to improve on last year's third place finish under first-year coach Greg Rhodenbaugh. Dominique Bouchard has already set a conference record in the 200 backstroke, and has a strong chance to be extremely competitive, as does Lauren Lavigna, who has already automatically qualified for the NCAA tournament with an 'A' cut at this summer's Commonwealth Games. Freshman Loren Figueroa has led the Mizzou diving team this year, shattering the school 3 meter record and qualifying for Olympic Trials.
Nebraska women The Cornhuskers are led in the pool by youthful talent on the upswing. Freshman Bailey Pons tallied 13 wins on the season, a team high. She looks to step-up in her first Big 12 Championships in the freestyle events. Sophomore Ellan Dufour and Freshman Lexie Halberstadt also look to take strides for the Huskers in the backstroke and freestyle events. Nebraska's leading diver, freshman Payton Michaud, has a chance to make a splash in each of her diving events.
Texas women The Longhorns have 11 swimmers who were All-Americans, including school record holders Karlee Bispo (100- and 200-yard freestyle) and Laura Sogar (100- and 200-yard breaststrokes). Bispo, who recently was named to the U.S. roster for this summer's World University Games in China. Sogar has college swimming's second-fastest times in both breaststroke events. All-America divers in sophomore Maren Taylor (sophomore) and Shelby Cullinan (third-year sophomore) excel in the three-meter and platform events. Texas finished with a 7-2 dual meet record that featured road wins at No. 4 California, No. 10 Texas A&M, No. 16 Michigan and No. 14 Indiana.
Texas A&M women Entering the meet with Big 12 relay or individual titles under their belt are Lindsey King (2009 200 back), Maria Sommer (2009-10 200 free relay, 2010 400 free relay), Janie Potvin (2010 platform dive) and Maureen McLaine (2010 800 free relay). NCAA veterans Tess Simpson, Kendra Chernoff, Rita Medrano and Melanie Dodds are having strong seasons. Making noise in their first seasons have been Sarah Henry, Anna Heller, Lili Ibañez, Cammile Adams, Paige Miller, Breeja Larson, Wylie Escobedo, Kim Pavlin and Erica Dittmer. Medrano (200 fly) and Henry (400 IM) have already broken school records this year.
Missouri men The Tigers come into the postseason with high hopes to improve on a third place finish in last year's Big 12 Championship. Seniors Jordan Hawley, Anders Melin and Roko Simunic have strong chances to place highly in the freestyle, fly, and backstroke events. Senior Dante Jones will anchor an up-and-coming diving squad that has two Olympic trial qualifiers as members.
Texas men The Longhorns features a pair of NCAA individual champions in junior diver Drew Livingston and sophomore swimmer Austin Surhoff. Livingston won the 1-meter diving event at the 2009 NCAA Championships, and Surhoff captured the 200-yard individual medley at the 2010 NCAA Championships. Surhoff was UT's top individual scorer at the 2010 NCAA meet with 40 points. UT has 11 All-Americans from last year's NCAA championship team. Seniors Scott Jostes and Scott Spann, junior Neil Caskey and sophomore Dax Hill are all threats to win their events.
Texas A&M men The Aggies return a strong group of swimmers and divers from last year's squad that finished 12th at the NCAA Championships. The dive crew is solid with the return of juniors Grant Nel (2010 Co-Diver of the Meet) and Cam McLean. A&M is led in the pool by sophomore Omar Enriquez, who currently owns four individual school records and re-broke the mile record earlier this season. Veterans Balazs Makany, Bryan Snowden, Nathan Lavery and Amini Fonua are also capable of making their presence felt at the Big 12 Championships.