By Jason Tillotson.
The race for the 2018 men’s and women’s Big 12 conference swimming and diving championships is underway in Austin, Texas, with a predictable outcome.
The Texas Longhorns should swim away with the victory yet again this year though the Kansas University Jayhawks, the Iowa State Cyclones and the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs should provide spectators with exciting races as the meet goes on.
Texas holds a longstanding tradition of success in the Big 12 and around the nation with the women’s team holding 15 of the past 21 Big 12 team titles while the Longhorn men have successfully won 38 straight Big 12 team titles. So it goes without saying that the Longhorns are not sweating over winning another championship.
That’s not to say the Longhorns are unfocused, especially the men, both the men’s and women’s squads have been swimming fast all year and have their eyes set on the NCAA championships in March while the rest of the Big 12 takes aim at the conference championships.
Going into this year’s meet the Texas women currently hold the top three times across the entire Big 12 conference in every event (excluding the 1650 free and 200 fly, where they hold the top two times). Beyond the top three, the lady Longhorns have waves of fast swimmers that could be thrown on potential relay situations or squeeze into a scoring final. With that, it is hard to see anyone challenging the Texas ladies in any race this week.
The Longhorn men could see come fight from the Mountaineers in the breaststroke races, where Texas is weak (no one on the roster has been under :53) and West Virginia is solid (with potential A finalist Tristen Disibio. While the rest of the meet might belong to Texas, the battle for runner-up between TCU and WVU has been close historically with the difference between the two schools in overall points last year just 168. Plus the addition of TCU’s point-worthy Joao Andrade could give the Mountaineers a hard time in Austin.
The women’s only team at Kansas University will bring their own expertise to Austin particularly with Haley Downey in the breast and IM events. Downey comes into the meet this year as a potential A-finalist in both the 100 and 200 breast, as well as the 200 and 400 IM. Haley Bishop will lead the KU Jayhawks in the sprint freestyle events where she is a potential B-final scorer.
The Iowa State Cyclones women’s team will also be in attendance in Austin with Mary Kate Luddy leading the way in the 100 and 200 butterfly while Keely Soellner will take the distance free responsibilities for the Cyclones.