March 1, 2008
AUSTIN, Texas - After taking fourth behind archrival Kansas at last year's Big 12 Championships, the Mizzou women's swimming and diving team (13-1, 3-1 Big 12) swam the course in this year's meet to ensure this would not happen again. The Tigers, boasting a six-point lead on the Jayhawks at the beginning of the day, left the pool at evening's end in third with 519.5 points, 14 points ahead of the women from KU.
Texas A&M earned their second consecutive Big 12 Championship with a score of 967, followed by Texas (748), Mizzou (519.5), Kansas (505.5), Iowa State (347) and Nebraska (341).
"The women showed no signs of letting up today," Tiger Head Coach Brian Hoffer said. "It was fun to get the third spot ahead of Kansas, and to have some big swims in the process. I'm very proud of the way the team swam, especially our seniors. They have worked so hard over the past four years and have helped shape this program into what it is today, and where it is going in the coming years. Kendra was also great over in the diving well. We're proud to call her a conference champ."
The morning began with the prelims of the 100 back. Freshman Lauren Lavigna closed strong down the stretch to earn a spot in the championship finals with a lifetime best swim of 2:01.72. The Candian's time ranks third all-time at Mizzou. Senior Sarah Menefee and junior Allie Bennett swam their way into consols with times of 2:06.03 and 2:06.82, respectively.
Junior Lori Halvorson's time of 50.82 in the 200 free, now the third fastest in school history, put her in the consolation final's second spot. Freshman Francie Szostak clocked a career best and the seventh-quickest time in MU history (51.36) to join her.
In the 200 breast, junior Erin Yeager
finished fifth overall in a time of 2:17.96. Bastien would also be invited back for the evening's `A' final after posting a time of 2:19.84. Freshman Morgan McCleery's
time of 2:22.27 put her in the midst of consolation final pack.
Freshman Melissa Jamerson broke out for a monster swim in the following 200 fly. The Floridian flew to a new school record in a time of 1:59.48, the fastest of the morning. Sophomore Molly Bollen (2:06.91) and senior Arica Jacinto (2:07.24) qualified for consols.
As the swimmers cleared the pool the focus turned to platform diving. As expected, junior Kendra Melnychuk dominated, and in record fashion, taking first overall with a new school record score of 282.70.
The backstrokers were the first into the pool in Saturday's evening session. Knocking nearly two seconds off her lifetime best set in prelims was Lavigna, who swam to an impressive fourth-place finish in a "B" cut time of 1:59.84. The Vancouver native's time was a new lifetime best. Menefee clocked a 2:05.69 to take third in consols, with Bennett right behind in fifth (2:06.00).
In the consolation final of the 100 free, Halvorson clocked a 50.91 to capture runner-up honors. Szostak finished fourth, posting a lifetime best of 51.10 along the way.
The Tigers and Jayhawks were all tied up heading into the 1650 free. Gordon helped take care of this, shaving 15 seconds off her previous best to claim her second top-five finish of the meet in a "B" cut time of 16:28.44. Junior Jill Granger aided in the cause by finishing sixth in a "B" cut time of 16:39.75, as did classmate Carly Sullivan, who touched in just outside the top 10 in 11th place.
It was up to the breaststrokers to maintain the team's lead, now at 30. Yeager and Bastien helped get the job done. Yeager pulled it out down the stretch in a time of 2:18.26 to take fifth, with Bastien touching in just behind in a time 2:18.72 for the sixth spot. In consols, McCleery reached the wall in fifth in a time of 2:21.52.
The Tigers found themselves up by 27 as Jamerson jumped into the pool in the 200 fly `A' final. The Floridian, now a school record holder, nearly reset the school mark with her runner-up clocking of 1:59.51. Going out on a high note was Jacinto, who raced to a lifetime best of 2:03.74 to take third in consols. Bollen finished three spots behind in sixth (2:05.85).
It was then over to the diving well for one of the greatest accomplishments in program history. Melnychuk put together an impressive five-dive set in which she had nearly beaten the finished divers prior to even her fifth dive, to tally yet another school record with a score of 284.00. The Canadian's win on the tower, nearly 50 points ahead of the nearest competitor, makes her the first ever Big 12 diving champion from Mizzou, and the first Tiger swimming or diving champ in five years.
The women, now up 18 on the Jayhawks, had all but wrapped up their third-place finish up when the quartet of Lauren Cox, Halvorson, Szostak and Gordon took to the pool for the 400 free relay. The foursome combined for a time of 3:25.29 to lock up fifth, and the team's third-place finish at the 2008 championships.
Although the conference meet has ended, Tiger fans can still catch a number of Tigers in action this post-season. The divers will head to Houston, Texas, March 14-16 for the NCAA Zone D Diving Championships, which represent a diver's only chance all season to qualify for this year's NCAA Championships set for March 20-22 in Columbus, Ohio. A number of Tiger swimmers having clocked NCAA "B" standard, or consideration, times will wait to see if they are selected to make the trip to the Buckeye State. Stay tuned to mutigers.com for all the latest Tiger postseason action.
Those who have yet to get their fill of the Big 12 Championships can catch repeat television coverage of the event on Fox Sports Net's Midwest Network (FSN Midwest) Sunday at 2 p.m. CST and again on Monday at 12 p.m.