By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Big 12 Conference Swimming and Diving Championships, hosted by the University of Missouri in its Mizzou Aquatics Center, get underway Wednesday and will finish on Saturday. This is the third year that the Tigers will host the event, after Missouri served as the championship site in 2006 and 2009.
Texas is favored to win both titles. The Longhorns’ men’s team is ranked second nationally and has won every Big 12 swimming title. Their conference winning streak is at 32, including UT’s days in the Southwest Conference. The Texas women’s team is ranked fourth nationally and has won 10 Big 12 championships.
Missouri, Texas and Texas A&M will compete for the men’s title while Iowa State, Kansas, Missouri, Texas and Texas A&M will compete for the women’s championship. The Aggies have won three of the last five women’s titles.
The Mizzou Aquatics Center features a 50-meter by 25-yard competitive pool. It has a top depth of eight feet, six inches, but can be reduced to any desired level thanks to a hydraulic moveable floor. In addition, it is equipped with six-inch Competitor Gold Medal racing lines and KDI Paragon starting blocks. The facility also boasts two moveable Stark bulkheads, 18-inch flow over drop gutters and an underwater speaker system.
The 25-yard diving well in the Mizzou Aquatics Center has two one-meter springboards, two three-meter springboards and one, three, seven-and-a-half and ten-meter platforms.
Big12Sports.com will broadcast each day’s preliminary action, as well as the finals on Wednesday. FSN will provide the remaining coverage from the four-day event, which will be aired on the network during the first week of March.
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 Thursday-Saturday start at 10 a.m., with diving finals starting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, 5 p.m. on Friday and 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. Swimming finals will start as 6 p.m. each day.
Tickets will be available at the Mizzou Aquatic Center one hour prior to the start of each session. Tickets are $5 per session for adults and $2 per session for students.
The Tigers are ranked 25th and have been bolstered this season by some new faces. School records have been set by newcomers freshman Eegan Groome (500 Free, 1000 Free, 1650 Free), freshman Igor Kozlovskij (100 Breast), and freshman Mack Darragh (200 Fly). Mizzou swimmers have also met Olympic Time Trial qualifications including freshman Sam Tierney (100 Breast in 1:02.04, 200 Breast in 2:18.54).
The Longhorns are ranked No. 2 nationally and have some of the fastest swimmers in the country. Texas features the fastest 800 free relay team in the nation, made up by Neil Caskey, Dax Hill, Clay Youngquist, and Kyle McNeilis, with a current time of 6:22.94. Four UT swimmers have garnered six Big 12 Swimmer of the Week honors with Jimmy Feigen claiming the award three times. Diver Matt Cooper has racked up three first-place finishes in both the one- and three-meter platform diving events.
Texas A&M men
The Aggies have a strong group of Big 12 veterans led by senior diver Grant Nel. He has been awarded Big 12 Diver of the Week three times this season, a year in which he broke his own school record in the 3-meter springboard event (476.48) against Texas on Feb. 3. Junior Hayden Jones is also a strong competitor on the diving boards. Swimmers Boris Loncaric, Amini Fonua, John McClure and Paul-Marc Schweitzer have all had strong seasons and could make an impact at the Big 12 meet.
Iowa State women
A dozen Cyclones will be making their Big 12 Championships debut. Amanda Paulson and Imelda Wistey, tied for the team lead in event wins with 22. Paulson will compete in the sprint freestyle events while Wistey will be in the breaststroke races. Sophomore Emily Wiltsie set a school record in the 200 breaststroke in December, finishing the race in an NCAA 'B' cut time of 2:15.31. In the diving well, Iowa State's Sarah Nelson and Jessica Henderson have both been near their best in recent weeks. Nelson is the top Cyclone on 1-meter and platform while Henderson leads the way on 3-meter.
The Jayhawks have been gearing their training toward Big 12 Championships and are looking for breakout performances. Coach Clark Campbell's squad is led by senior captain Stephanie Payne, who holds two school records and will be making a trip to the Olympic Trials in June. Sophomore freestyler Morgan Sharp has had a superb season. She broke a school record in the 500 free. On the boards, junior Christy Cash and sophomore Alyssa Golden have had stellar seasons, both qualifying for NCAA Zones.
The 18th-ranked Tigers have re-written the record books this season. Senior Shara Stafford set Missouri top times in five events (50 Free, 100 Free, 200 Free, 100 Butterfly, 200 IM) and two relays (200 Free Relay, 400 Medley Realy). Many Tigers also met Olympic Time Trial qualifications this season including Stafford (100 Fly in 1:01.64), Cassie Cunningham (50 Free in 26.07), Amanda Masters (100 Breast in 1:11.06, 200 Breast in 2:34.53), Rachel Ripley (100 Breast in 1:11.14).
The Longhorns are ranked No. 4 in the nation. Texas is led by senior Karlee Bispo, who has the nation's fastest time in the 200 freestyle and was named Swimmer of the Meet at last year's Big 12 Championships. She has become the first women's swimmer to be named Big 12 Swimmer of the Week four times in one season and her 10 career honors are the most by a female athlete in swimming and diving. The Longhorns notched wins over No. 9 Arizona, No. 13 SMU and posted an upset over No. 1 Georgia in posting a 6-1 dual meet record.
Texas A&M women
The Aggies have a veteran squad. Swimmers Cammile Adams, Breeja Larson, Paige Miller and Maureen McLaine and divers Janie Potvin and Jaele Patrick all have first place finishes under their belts. Adams has had a strong season highlighted by two dominating wins at the Austin Grand Prix over former Olympians in the 400 IM and 200 butterfly. Larson has swam under 1:00 in the 100 breaststroke four times this season, even going under :59.00 once. Patrick was honored as Big 12 Diver of the Week five times this season, more than any other diver in the conference.