Karlee Bispo

Women's Swimming & Diving

Senior Karlee Bispo swam her last meet for Texas at the NCAA championships in mid-March. She is a seven-time All-American and will now focus on making the Olympic team this summer.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

As senior swimmer Karlee Bispo mounted the platform for her last race at the NCAA Championships, she was struck with the realization that her days as a Longhorn were coming to a close.

“It was kind of a reality check that this is it and I won’t be a college student anymore,” she said. “It really does fly by. I know that’s so cliche but you just have to enjoy every moment.”

Bispo, who earned seven All-American honors and broke the school record in the 100 freestyle in her last meet, wasn’t the only one with sentimental thoughts. Senior Leah Gingrich, who was already a two-time All-American and five-time Big 12 Champion by the end of her junior year, was also competing in her last meet as a Texas swimmer and soaking up the time with her teammates.

“I’ll miss the team,” Gingrich said. “That’s always the most fun because I get to spend all day every day with 30 of my closest friends. When I move back home, it’s going to be a lot different and I’m definitely going to miss them.”

Both Gingrich and Bispo hailed to Texas from other states — Bispo from California, Gingrich from Pennsylvania. However, both were roped in by school spirit and the thrills that came with competing as Longhorns. “I always really liked the meets against A&M because the crowds get really excited and the team gets really excited,” Gingrich said.

“We bring out the best in each other during that meet.”

Some of Bispo’s favorite memories came from a junior season with much to prove, she said.

“Coming back and winning the Big 12 Championship and being able to have it and NCAAs here at our home pool was one of my proudest moments,” she said.

Gingrich chose Texas over Georgia and USC after a niche-finding recruiting trip.“I just really felt comfortable here,” she said. “It was just my special fit.” And while four years in the water would bring plenty of lessons and experiences for Gingrich, she said she learned just as much out of the pool. “You just grow a lot going through college and especially being in a high level sport like this,” she said. “There are a lot of ups and downs, but you learn how to deal with all the adversities that come along with it.”

Gingrich will continue to train for the upcoming Olympic trials and is set to graduate in December with an education degree. After that, she’ll shed her goggles and swim cap in favor of crayons and lesson plans to fulfill her dream of becoming a kindergarten teacher. She won’t, however, forget the joys of her days as a college student. “It’s been the best four years of my life,” Gingrich said. “I’ve learned a lot here and made really great friends here, so I wouldn’t change anything.”

With the prospect of competing on the Olympic team, Bispo’s post-college plans are a bit more complicated, but she’s got a few ideas.

“It depends on this summer and what ends up happening with swimming, and after summer I’ll start making some decisions,” Bispo said. “Medical school’s in the back of my mind, and my other route is to keep swimming, get married and become a mom and teach high school chemistry and anatomy. There’s a lot of things flying around in my head right now.”

From adjusting to dorm life to coping with the pressure of national swim meets, Bispo said college has shaped her into a more independent person.

“I wasn’t a really good decision maker, so being away from my parents, I’ve learned to make decisions on my own and do things for myself,” she said. “In many ways I’ve grown as a person.”

Like Gingrich, Bispo will leave UT as a graduate next December, with high hopes for those swimmers still part of the team.

“I definitely think our program is building right now, and every year you learn something,” she said. “It’s a team that is growing back to the potential we had and the dominance we had during the ‘80s. We’re definitely heading in the right direction.” Bispo and Gingrich will head in directions of their own with memories of rivalries, friendships and burnt orange pride accompanying them as they continue on their way.

Women's Swimming & Diving

After four days of trailing behind Texas A&M in the lanes and on the boards, Texas placed second in the Big 12 Championships in Columbia, Mo.

The Longhorns arrived in Missouri to start racing on Wednesday, ending the day a mere two points behind A&M. Karlee Bispo, Katie Riefenstahl, Leah Gingrich and Samantha Tucker nabbed first place in the 800 freestyle relay with a time of 7:04.09. Tucker’s sweeping finish as the final leg helped UT steal the race by over three seconds.

Bispo scored UT’s first individual title at the meet on Thursday with a win in the 200 IM, finishing with a time of 1:56.05. Sophomore Ellen Lobb won the 50 freestyle with a time of 22.56, while Kelsey Amundsen, last years’ winner, followed in second place with a time of 22.71.

By Friday, Texas clung on to second place but couldn’t quite pass A&M. Lily Moldenhauer, Laura Sogar, Lobb and Bispo combined for second place in the 400 medley relay, their time just below the NCAA qualifying standard.

Strong performances popped up throughout the day, as Moldenhauer placed third in the 100 butterfly and second in the 100 backstroke, while Sogar swam her quickest 100 breaststroke race of the season with a time of 1:00.31.

Two Texas divers competed in the 3-meter competition on Friday. Shelby Cullinan placed fourth with 335.75 points and Diana Wilcox took seventh with 311.75 points.

On the final day of the meet, Sogar nabbed her first NCAA qualifying standard with a 2:08.36 in the 200 breaststroke. Gretchen Jacques swam her fastest time of the season for fourth place, a 2:13.65.

Wilcox placed second in the platform diving competition with 298.30 points, and Cullinan took third with 282.60 points.

Bispo, Tucker and Amundsen dominated the 100 freestyle race with times under 50.00, placing second, third and fourth.

Freshman Kelsey LeNeave swam her season best in the 1650 freestyle with a time of 16:16.41 and placed second overall. Another freshman swimmer, Kaitlin Pawlowicz, followed close behind in fourth place with a time of 16:27.87.

The Longhorns finished strong with a win in the last event, the 400 freestyle relay, a race Texas has claimed three of the last four years, with swimmers Bispo, Amundsen, Hooper and Tucker finishing with a 3:16.42.

Texas finished the meet with 873 points, second to rival A&M’s 1,019 points.

On Thursday, swimmers will have another shot at achieving NCAA qualifying marks during the All-American Invitational, which runs through Saturday.

Senior Karlee Bispo was named Big 12 Swimmer of the Week for the fourth time this season and 10th time of her career, both conference records.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Receiving the Big 12 Swimmer of the Week award is an honor for any swimmer. Senior swimmer Karlee Bispo has now had that honor four times this season.

Last week, she became the first female swimmer in Big 12 conference history to receive the Big 12 Swimmer of the Week award four times in a single season.

Bispo, a senior freestyle champion and 11-time All-American, now holds the most career honors of any woman in Big 12 swimming and diving history.

“It’s a big honor because of how competitive the Big 12 is,” Bispo said. “It’s an honor to be thought of by the coaches, and it’s another confidence booster leading into the Big 12 Championships.”

With 15 race wins behind her thus far this season, Bispo’s versatility and determination make her a crucial competitive asset for the team, head coach Kim Brackin said.

“She’s been invaluable to this program,” Brackin said. “You can put her anywhere and she’ll step up and race.”
In addition to success in the water, Brackin said Bispo serves as a natural leader for her teammates.

“She is certainly a leader on the team in terms of dual meets, and I think the team really looks up to her in terms of her wavering ability to just lay it on the line whenever she needs to,” Brackin said.

Bispo will head to Columbia, Mo. with her teammates on Wednesday to compete in the Big 12 Championships.

Printed on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 as: Bispo breaks record with weekly honor

Senior Karlee Bispo, an 11-time All-American and 15-time Big 12 champion, is setting her sights on this summer’s Olympic Games in London. Bispo, who competed in five events in the 2008 Olypmic trials, also holds six school records and was named 2011 Big 12 Women’s Swimmer of the Year.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Olympic dreams have long been in the making for swimming stars Karlee Bispo and Laura Sogar, but they aren’t letting the looming trials cramp their style in the pool during collegiate competition.

Bispo, a senior, and Sogar, a junior, are two of the women’s top contenders for spots on the Olympic team, among a group of other teammates who qualified for trials.

“Every young swimmer wants to go to the Olympics and I’ve always sort of had that dream,” Sogar said.

Bispo said she feels the trials will take place at an appropriate time in her career.

“It’s always been a dream,” she said of making the Olympic team. “I feel like I was kind of lucky having my first Olympic trials before I came to college and the next trials after four years of training in college, so I’m really excited to see the progress I’ve made and just really excited to be up there and contend for a spot.”

Bispo is an 11-time All-American and 15-time Big 12 champion. The northern California native was also the 2011 Big 12 Conference’s Women’s Swimmer of the Year with top times in the 100 and 200 freestyles as well as the 400 and 800 free relays and the 400 medley relay.

While she played a multitude of sports as a child, Bispo said she was naturally drawn to swimming.

“I would swim laps on my own when I was eight and begged my dad to let me join the team,” she said. “Now all my sisters swim, so it’s kind of become a family sport.”

At UT, the competitive spirit amongst teammates is one thing Bispo says propels her forward as a swimmer.

“The benefit of being on a college team is that you have other people just as fast as you or faster than you, so just having the dynamic of all those different speeds helps our team a lot in training,” she said. “One of my favorite things is to be able to train with people I know are going to push me every day.”

With the last regular meet before the Big 12 Championships behind her, Bispo will soon grapple with the fact that her time as a Texas swimmer is drawing to a close.

“I don’t think it’s fully hit me that it’s my last meet,” she said. “I’m sure after everything is over, it will hit me a little harder, but right now, I’m just trying to enjoy every moment.”

Bispo said while qualifying for the Olympic team won’t be an easy task, she has a clear plan of what she needs to do to nab a spot.

“I know that it’s really competitive,” she said. “The 200 free is probably my best shot, which is one of the most competitive races. I know I have to drop a couple of seconds to make the team, but that’s something I’m ready to do.”

Similarly, teammate Sogar has an Olympic mentality and a clear vision of the challenge ahead.

“It’s going to be really hard,” she said. “Breaststroke in America is really deep and there are only two spots. It’s going to be really hard, but I’m going to do everything I can to set myself up, so that I know when I leave trials I did everything in my power to give myself a shot at it.”

Like Bispo, Sogar has an impressive resume of accomplishments in the water. A three-time All-American and five-time Big 12 Champion, Sogar also holds school records in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes. She was named Big 12 Conference Women’s Swimming and Diving Newcomer of the Year in 2010.

Sogar said the Olympic trials have slightly altered the mentality of the team, bringing a focus on long-term goals.

“There’s a different edge to everyone this year because it’s four years worth of dreams and hard work,” she said. “It’s a little bit more pressure because you really need to nail it this year. There’s no room for error.”

Sogar said her teammates inspire her in and out of the water.

“It’s a really cohesive group. There’s talent across classes, so it’s fun to have everyone working hard and pushing each other,” she said. “Freshmen are challenging the seniors, so we’re really excited to see the team come together.”

For all her victories in individual races, Sogar said the closeness of the team is what she cherishes most about her swimming experience at UT.

“The day-to-day is what I enjoy the most with these girls,” she said. “The girls on this team are my best friends. It really makes training enjoyable when you’re doing it with people close to you.”

Head coach Kim Brackin said both girls embody similar work ethics and serve as leaders for their peers.

“They both have that focus, that really driven sense of purpose when they’re here,” Brackin said. “I think they both have really high goals for themselves this year through NCAAs and at trials.”

Brackin said the challenge ahead is a matter of mentality as the girls compete for spots on the Olympic team.

“They do the little things right ­— both are doing all the right things physically,” she said. “The challenge for them will be mentally not beating themselves up, enjoying the ups and not taking the downs so seriously.”

Both will strive to finish off their collegiate seasons with more wins, records and shaved-off times before extending their skills at Olympic trials this summer.

Printed on, Tuesday February 14, 2012 as: Pair of Longhorns pursuing Olympic dreams

Weekend Recap

The women’s swimming and diving team claimed a decisive victory over the Aggies, 197-103. The team remains undefeated on the year.

The Longhorns dominated the day of competition, winning 11 out of the 16 total events with nine of those being of the individual variety.

Senior captain Karlee Bispo earned her title, winning the 100-yard freestyle, 200-yard freestyle and the 200-yard IM. Senior Leah Gingrich also continued her good year by winning three events as well.

Sophomore Lily Moldenhauer looked great winning both the 100-backstroke and 100-yard butterfly. Junior Bethany Adams continued Texas’ streak, winning the 50-yard freestyle.

The two relay victories for the Longhorns were attributed to Bispo, Moldenhauer, Laura Sogar and Ellen Lobb — the winners of the 200-yard medley relay — and Adams, Moldenhauer, Samantha Tucker and Katie Riefenstahl, who won the 400-yard medley relay.

The women will enjoy a break until the Texas Invitational on Dec. 1.

Preview

The Longhorns have won their first three competitions of the year and are in great position going into today’s meet with conference foes Texas A&M.

Senior captain Karlee Bispo is off to her usual great start, propelling the Longhorns to victory at the SMU Classic, earning herself the honor of Big 12 Swimmer of the Week.

Freshman Kaitlin Pawlowicz has looked very strong, winning two events in the dual meet with Indiana and Michigan last week. Freshmen Gretchen Jacques and Kelsey LeNeave have also contributed to the team’s overall success, swimming very competitively in the dual meet as well.

The Longhorns will attempt to remain undefeated when they welcome Texas A&M here to Austin for the first home meet of the season this evening.

Published on November 4, 2011 as: Bispo, Pawlowicz lead undefeated squad

Women's Swimming & Diving Weekend Recap

Competition was fierce this weekend at the SMU Classic in Dallas. Although only nine of the Longhorns competed, they still finished on top.

After finishing the first day with a 10-point lead over the rest of the field, Texas widened the gap with some strong performances on Saturday, finishing the meet with a team-high 350 points.

Captain Karlee Bispo, who won both the 100-yard (49:45) and 200-yard freestyle (1:47.35), led the ladies. Junior Laura Sogar also came up big, winning both the 100-yard (1:01.99) and 200-yard (2:13.10) breaststroke. The other Longhorn individual winner was senior Leah Gingrich in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 1:59.60.

As a team, Bispo, Sogar, Lily Moldenhauer and Kelsey Amundsen captured both the 200- and 400-yard medley relays with times of 1:42.32 and 3:42.79, respectively. Bispo, Gingrich, Moldenhauer and Katie Riefenstahl teamed up to win the 800 freestyle relay with a time of 7:16.74.

The women look forward to building on this success as the whole team unites for duals against Indiana and Michigan on Oct. 28 in Ann Arbor.

Women's Swimming

Although her season ended almost three months ago, junior Karlee Bispo is still reaping the rewards of her performances both in the pool and in the classroom.

Last week, Bispo was named to the 2011 Capital One Academic All-America Team. Only nine women’s NCAA Division I swimmers and divers were selected for this year’s team. Bispo earned a spot on the third team, which consists of eight athletes from a variety of different sports. She will go down in record books as the 11th Texas swimmer to be named an Academic All-American and was the only Big 12 female swimmer selected this year.

A student athlete must have a cumulative 3.20 GPA or higher and be designated as a starter to qualify for a nomination. Bispo, an exercise science major, was also named to the Big 12 Academic first team each of the last two seasons.

In the pool, Bispo was crowned the Big 12 Women’s Swimmer of the Year and was named Outstanding Swimmer at the Big 12 Swimming and Diving Championship meet this past February. She led the Longhorns to a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in March, qualifying for seven events.

With only six women competing in Friday evening’s eight events, it was a quality over quantity approach that moved Texas into sixth place by the end of the second night of the NCAA swimming and diving championships.

After a less than stellar showing in the morning’s preliminary swimming events, the Longhorns failed to earn a finals birth in three of the seven swims at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center in the evening. However, divers Maren Taylor and Shelby Cullinan each earned spots in the evening’s lone diving event, the 3-meter springboard.

The second night got underway with it’s third team swim, the 200-yard medley relay. Texas head coach Kim Brackin elected to go with a young relay squad as freshmen Lily Moldenhauer and Ellen Lobb joined sophomores Laura Sogar and Bethany Adams.

Having barely made it into the "A" final as the eighth and final seed, the four underclassmen were unable to put together any kind of upset as they trailed throughout the race.

Despite their struggles, the team’s ability to outswim the Arizona State women en route to a seventh place finish was very important as it added 24 points to the Longhorn’s overall score.

The extra two points earned by moving up a spot allowed them to maintain their overall seventh-place standing, despite Wisconsin’s second-place medley finish.

Neither Leah Gingrich’s team best 29th finish in the 400 individual medley nor Kelsey Amundsen’s team-high 24th spot in the 100 butterfly were good enough to add to Texas’ overall point total.

Team captain Karlee Bispo looked to get the Longhorns back on track as she jumped in the pool for the "A" final in the 200 freestyle. Bispo, a freestyle specialist, got off to a great start as she was in third after 150 yards, but a tough last 50 caused the junior to fall back, finishing the race in fourth with a time of 1 minute, 42.81 seconds.

Sogar was Texas’ lone competitor in the night’s fifth event, the 100 breaststroke, finishing with a time of 59.60 seconds, which earned her seventh and added 12 points to the team’s overall score.

Texas was shutout yet again in the 100 backstroke as Moldenhauer’s 22nd place finish was not good enough to place her in the final heats nor did it earn the team any points.

Looking to regain momentum, the Longhorn’s had two divers in the deep pool’s only event for the night.

The 3-meter springboard was the first event of the 2011 championships in which the Longhorns had multiple competitors in the final.

Taylor and Cullinan were in great position to add to the team total and move Texas up the overall standings and gain momentum.

Despite finishing seventh and eighth in the event, the two women put together an impressive set of dives and their combined total of 23 points was enough to move the Longhorn’s past Auburn and into sixth in the overall standings with a score of 142.

Having just moved up, and trailing Arizona by only 10, Texas had plenty of motivation heading into the night’s marquee event, the 800 freestyle relay.

Bispo was quick off the opening block and swam in spectacular fashion as she led the first 150 yards of the race before dropping into second by the end of her 200. Katie Riefenstahl was next in the water and dropped another spot before giving way to Adrienne Woods for the third leg of the race. Woods dropped into fourth at the 500-yard mark and kept it that way for the next 100. Austin native Samantha Tucker swam a stellar anchor leg and was able to hold on to give the team a fourth place relay finish.

The team was unable to gain any ground on Arizona, who finished third in the final event, but their 30-point effort kept them within striking distance and increased the team’s lead over seventh-place Florida heading into the final day of competition.

For the first time in nine years, the Longhorns hopped into their own pool to kick off the 2011 Women’s NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships.

They exited the pool on Thursday evening in seventh place.

The Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center hasn’t hosted the event since 2002, when head coach Kim Brackin, then an assistant at Auburn, helped lead the Tigers to a national championship.

"I have some great memories from this pool. We (Auburn) had young, good talent who hadn't really sparked yet," Brackin recalled. "There are a lot of similarities to this year for us. I remember that team chemistry is so important."

With 13 competitors, 11 swimmers and two divers, chemistry would be very important early on as Texas was looking to get off to a quick start at the championship meet.

The 200-yard freestyle relay foursome of Kelsey Amundsen, Bethany Adams, Ellen Lobb and Karlee Bispo got the team off to a great start with a third place finish in the first race of the championships.

Their time of 1 minute, 28.06 seconds earned the team 32 points while Cal Berkley’s time of 1 minute, 27.36 seconds earned it first place and 40 points in the overall competition. Arizona finished second and gained 34 points.

Texas was unable to earn any points in the 500 freestyle as Leah Gingrich’s team best 36th place finish was not high enough to add to the Longhorn’s score.

The third event of the night brought Texas back to the podium.

Bispo was able to finish third in the 200 individual medley with a time of 1 minute, 55.07 seconds. Her bronze medal put the team’s overall point total at 48 and moved them into fifth place half way through the opening night’s festivities.

Adams, a sophomore competing in her second consecutive NCAA championship, swam the 50 freestyle in a time of 22.49 seconds. That time was good enough for 14th place and added three more points to the team’s overall score.

Maren Taylor dove her way to an identical 14th place finish in the one-meter diving final, the first diving event of the championships, and also added three to the Longhorn’s overall score.

In the night’s final swim, Lily Moldenhauer and Laura Sogar combined with Amundsen and Bispo to finish 10th in the 400 medley. The relay’s 14-point effort gave the team 68 points on the night and put them in seventh place heading into Friday’s second day of competition.