Knoxville, Tenn. — The University of Arkansas swimming and diving team broke three school records and swam four U.S. Olympic Trials qualifying times in day two of the Tennessee Invitational inside the Jones Aquatic Center on Thursday. Senior Katie Whitbeck broke her own school records in the 100 butterfly in both the long course (meter) and short course (yard) formats.
Arkansas held strong in fourth place through Thursday’s action with 383 points. Texas A&M leads the meet with 783, Tennessee is in second with 471, and Louisville in third with 449.5.
"I thought it was an even better day than we had yesterday," said Arkansas head coach Jeff Poppell. "I thought we had a great long course session this morning."
Whitbeck was one of four Razorbacks to hit U.S. Olympic Trials qualifying times in the early session. She qualified in the 100 meter fly with a time of 1:01.53, good for third place in the morning. Whitbeck, who has already finished first in four butterfly events on the young season, broke her own school record in the long course 100 fly.
Julia Kucherich also qualified for the trials, placing second in the 400 meter IM with a time of 4:52.27. Kucherich was about a body length behind the first place swimmer in her heat for the majority of the race, but excelled in the final leg to win the heat and achieve her qualifying time. Both Whitbeck and Kucherich had already qualified for the trials in their respective events.
School records and qualifying times were also set during individual time trials in the morning session. Freshman Susanna White qualified for her first event in the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 50 meter freestyle, and also set a school long course record with a time of 26.23. Distance specialist Chelsea Franklin had not yet qualified for the trials in the 800 freestyle, and did so with a time of 8:48.73, beating the cut by almost two seconds.
Franklin, who excels in distance freestyle events, also showed her versatility by placing fourth in the 200 yard freestyle final with a time of 1:49.96. She narrowly earned a place in the A final by finishing eighth in the morning preliminary 200 meter freestyle event with a time of 2:04.96. Alison Templin was not far behind Franklin in the 200 free final, placing sixth with a time of 1:50.71.
Arkansas excelled in a thrilling race at the end of the evening session, with the A team of Sigrun Sverrisdottir, Franklin, Templin and Nicole Menzel placing second in the 800 yard freestyle relay with a time of 7:20.11. Arkansas came from behind and closed the gap against first place Texas A&M while surpassing LSU and Louisville for second place. Menzel swam the final leg and stretched to finish ahead of LSU by 0.01 seconds and in front of Lousville by 0.34 seconds.
"Nicole Menzel is a very tough racer, and if there’s anybody you want on the anchor leg it would be her," said Poppell. "She dove in fourth and finished second, so she did a great job. It was a fantastic way to finish off the meet. We want to come in tomorrow morning and build off of that momentum that we created with that last relay."
Nikki Daniels’ 100 meter breaststroke swim in the morning was about one second off of qualifying for the A final in the evening session, placing her in the B final instead. Daniels won that B final heat handily with a time of 1:02.21, a season best that would have placed her second overall in the A heat. Fellow-freshmen Julia Banach and Taylor Temple placed 11th and 12th in the 100 breast final with times of 1:03.29 and 1:03.33.
In three meter diving, Kesha Naylor finished seventh in the finals with a score of 284.55, while Liana Bugslag placed ninth with a score of 279.0. Both divers had strong preliminary sessions, with Naylor placing fifth in the early session with a score of 286.55 and Bugslag seventh with a score of 279.70. Alex House missed the opportunity to compete in the finals by just six points, scoring 239.75 and placing 14th. The top 12 moved on to the finals.
Friday will be the final day of competition and will once again begin at 10 a.m. CT. The 200 back, 100 free, 200 breast, 100 fly, platform diving, 1,500 free (morning) and 1,650 free (evening) will be the featured events, once again swam in long course in the morning and short course in the evening. For more information about Razorback swimming and diving, please log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.