Longhorns dive into Big 12 meet with impressive early performances

Samuel Saucer

Halfway through the Big 12 Championship week, the Texas women’s swimming and diving team appears well on its way to yet another conference title.

The Longhorns built on a strong opening day performance by sweeping all five of Thursday’s events. The six-time defending league champs claimed gold in the 500-yard freestyle, 200-yard individual medley, 50-yard freestyle, 400-yard medley, and 1-meter diving while amassing a commanding overall team lead in the process.

“I thought the times were pretty good today. A lot of us aren’t very well rested,” freshman Grace Ariola said. “So considering how rested we are, it was a good performance.”

Ariola has as much to do with Texas’ fast start as anyone. She was part of the 200-yard medley relay team that notched its first win of the meet Wednesday night, and followed it up with a pair of first-place finishes in the 50-yard freestyle and 400-yard medley Thursday.

“As we said at our team meeting, even if this isn’t most competitive conference, we’re still competing against each other and competing for each other,” Ariola said. “And that’s what I love about this team.”

Among those contributing highly to the Longhorns’ successful run was senior Joanna Evans. The two-time All American broke the Big 12 conference meet record with a 4:36.87 time in the 500-yard freestyle, surpassing her own record-setting time by nearly two seconds from two years ago.

“It isn’t quite as fast as I was earlier in the season,” Evans said. “But breaking records is always kinda fun. At this time of the year, it’s exciting.”

Finding her way to the record books has become something of a habit for Evans, who also currently holds the top times in school history in the 1650- and 800-yard freestyles.

When asked to assess her team’s overall performance, the senior echoed the words of Texas head coach Carol Capitani by stressing the importance of Big 12s in preparing the team for potentially greater treasures at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships.

“This isn’t always the most competitive meet, but it’s good preparation,” Evans said. “I think a few people wanted to be a bit faster. But I think everyone is excited for the next couple of days. For those of who have already qualified for the NCAAs, we’re just getting ready for what’s to come in a couple weeks’ time.”

Through day two, the Longhorns lead their next closest challenger, the Kansas Jayhawks, by a 384.5–241.5 margin. Texas remains a perfect 3-for-3 in relay events.

Action will resume Friday with preliminaries set to begin at 10:00 a.m. at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center, followed by finals at 6:00 p.m.