AUSTIN, Texas, February 26. DEFENDING Big 12 Conference men and women champions Texas pulled away from the championship field Thursday to gain sole possession of first place of the 2004 Phillips 66 Big 12 Conference Swimming and Diving Championships at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center on the University of Texas campus. The men have posted 346 points over the past two days, while the women have compiled 340.50 points.
In the women's race Texas is followed by in-state rival Texas A&M (233), Kansas (181), Iowa State (162), Nebraska (150) and Missouri (123.50). Texas A&M (302) and Missouri (175) are trailing UT in second and third places, respectively, in the men's field.
Thursday's competition was highlighted by UT's Ian Crocker shattering the meet record in the 50-yard freestyle preliminaries and finals. In the preliminaries, the seven-time NCAA champion clocked in at 19.25 seconds, surpassing the previous Big 12 meet record holder and fellow Longhorn Neil Walker who swam 19.59 ironically enough on the same day (Feb. 26) in 1998. Later, in the finals Crocker broke the record he set earlier in the day with a time of 19.18, an NCAA Championships automatic qualifying mark as well. The Portland, Maine, senior now has the nation's fastest time in the event and has won his third title in the 50 free (2001, 2002 and 2003).
"I'm really excited about my performance tonight," Crocker said. "It's a great accomplishment heading into NCAAs. I swam my best time in the 50 free during my sophomore year, 19.70. When we were at Auburn (Jan. 9-10), I swam 19.90, which was early in the season to be swimming that fast. Then a few weeks ago I was at 19.41 so it opened up the possibility that I could reach the sub-19 barrier at the conference championship."
Overall, Crocker has collected 16 conference titles in his career.
In addition to Crocker breaking the meet record another one fell at the hands of the Texas A&M 200-yard freestyle relay team of freshman Ozzie Gardner, junior Dan Blanchard, senior Matt Rose and sophomore Andrew Sullivant. The Aggies have now won back-to-back titles in the event after compiling a time of 1:17.72, which automatically qualifies them for the NCAA Championships March 25-27 in Long Island, N.Y. They won consecutive titles in 1998 and 1999 as well. The A&M squad currently leads the nation with its performance Thursday.
Elsewhere in men's action, the 2003 NCAA Swimmer of the Year and Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Aaron Peirsol won the 500-yard freestyle conference championship for the first time in his career. The Irvine, Calif., native swam the race in 4:23.26, an NCAA consideration mark. This is his sixth title in only two years.
Peirsol's teammate sophomore David Kahn also turned in a provisional time of his own (1:47.27), placing first in the 200-yard individual medley. Kahn improved from his season best and league leading time of 1:48.37.
UT diver Mark Shattuck claimed his first ever diving triumph at the Big 12 meet. The Big 12 November Diver of the Month tallied 601.20 points.
In women's diving action Texas A&M's Alida DiPlacido won her first Big 12 title after compiling 302.70 points in the one-meter diving competition. Coming into the championships, the Montreal, Canada, sophomore had posted the sixth best score in the conference during the regular season, but was able to hold off defending champion Ally Hartzell (299.85) of Texas for the victory in her first Big 12 Championships meet.
The Texas women swept the other four events from Thursday. 2003 Big 12 Swimmer of the Meet and Year Sarah Wanezek earned her second straight 50-yard free race with an NCAA automatic bid of 22.44. A junior from Brookfield, Wis., Wanezek also swam the second leg of the first-place 200-yard freestyle relay team along with sophomore Kristy Siminski, freshman Katie Robinson and sophomore Jaclyn Faulkner. The relay turned in a provisional time of 1:31.04 to capture UT's seventh consecutive crown in this event. With this victory, Wanezek has won eight league championships.
Junior Kaela Humphries and freshman Stephanie Anderson both won their first individual titles. Humphries finished first in the 200 IM and qualified for the NCAA Championships with a time of 2:00.30. While, Anderson turned in an NCAA consideration time of 4:49.62 in the 500 free. Although this is Humphries first individual championship, she has struck gold on three different occasions as a member of relays in the past two years (200 free and medley relays – 2003 and 400 medley relay – 2002).
The swimming & diving championships will resume at 10 a.m. Friday with the one-meter men's diving competition and the 400-yard IM prelims.
TEAM STANDINGS (As of Feb. 26, 2004)
1. Texas – 346
2. Texas A&M – 302
3. Missouri – 175
1. Texas – 340.50
2. Texas A&M – 233
3. Kansas – 181
4. Iowa State – 162
5. Nebraska – 150
6. Missouri – 123.50