TUCSON, Arizona, January 31. COLD winds blew into town near the end of the first day of a two-day dual meet between the men’s and women’s squads from the University of Arizona and the University of Texas. That didn’t seem to affect the Longhorns, who don’t swim outdoors, as they outscored host Arizona in multiple events to take a big lead at the end of the day. The Longhorn women, ranked No. 6 in the recent College Swimming Coaches Association of America’s poll lead the meet 105-81, while No. 3 Texas has the advantage over No. 5 Arizona going into tomorrow’s competition, 226-146.
NCAA champions Margo Geer and Kevin Cordes won their races handily for Arizona today. Geer, the reigning NCAA champion in the 100 free, won that event with a 49.81 ahead of teammate Grace Finnegan, who posted a 50.66. Cordes, the reigning champion in the 200 breast, held off a strong charge from Will Licon of Texas to take the victory in 1:58.15 to Licon’s 2.00.32.
Texas freshman Jack Conger, poised to be in the hunt for a few NCAA titles in March, was in cruise control in his best event, the 200 backstroke, posting a 1:47.18. He’s been much faster numerous times this season, including his 1:40.90 from December. Conger held off a determined Michael Sheppard of Arizona, who was just a half body length behind with a 1:47.90. Conger appeared to be saving his reserves in the 200 back for the 100 fly less than 10 minutes later, where he was pushing for a double on the day. But Conger settled for second with a 48.82 behind the 48.71 posted by teammate Tripp Cooper to win the event.
Clay Youngquist, a junior at Texas, played with the field in the men’s 100 free, letting his competitors push the pace early. Youngquist, an NCAA finalist in the 200 free, used his endurance to pull away and win by nearly a body length with a 44.82. Before today, Youngquist had only swum the 100 free once this season, putting up a 44.13 in the tri-meet with Indiana and Michigan in October.
Bonnie Brandon was the only swimmer to put up more than one individual win on the board today. She started with a respectable 1:58.31 in the 200 back, then held off teammate Tjasa Oder in the 500 free to win with a 4:50.60 to Oder’s 4:50.81.
Texas won both 400 IM races, with Madisyn Cox taking the women’s event with a 4:18.38 and John Martens showing off a strong second half to post a 3:55.59 to win the men’s event.
Texas’ Gretchen Jacques took a body length lead early on in the women’s 200 breast and kept it throughout, winning with a 2:13.82. Ashley Evans, an ace distance freestyler in high school now succeeding in butterfly for Arizona, won the 100 fly with a 54.69 over the 54.78 posted by Texas’ Ellen Lobb.
Texas took the top three spots in the final individual event of the day, as Sam Lewis won the men’s 500 free with a 4:26.70. Clark Smith was second in 4:30.92 while Youngquist placed third with a 4:33.91.
Arizona was able to win both of the opening events, taking the women’s and men’s 200 free relays, but the final event of the day, the 400 medley relay, helped Texas secure a comfortable lead going into the second day of swimming. Texas’ Alex Hooper held off Geer in the anchor leg to give the Longhorns the victory, 3:39.96 to 3:40.07. The timing system malfunctioned at the finish of that race, prompting the outcome to be determined by stopwatches.
In the men’s 400 medley relay, the lead shifted hands after every leg. Texas’ Kip Darmody led after the backstroke (48.14 split), Cordes took the lead for Arizona after breaststroke (53.64 split) and Conger regained it for Texas in the butterfly with a 47.10 leg. John Murray of Texas held off a determined Brian Stevens to give Texas the victory in the race with a 3:14.83 to Arizona’s 3:15.11.