Lily Moldenhauer

Photo Credit: Andrea Kurth | Daily Texan Staff

The NCAA Championships will begin Thursday and run through Saturday night at the University of Minnesota’s aquatic center. Nine swimmers and three divers will represent the No. 6 Longhorns. Along with those individuals, all five of Texas’ relay teams qualified for the championships.  

The Longhorns are well acquainted with the NCAA Championships, having won seven in their history, in addition to three second place finishes, and reaching a meet-record 746 points in 1991. As if that isn’t enough, the Longhorns will be led by senior All-Americans Ellen Lobb, Samantha Tucker and Lily Moldenhauer, making their fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Championships.  

Diving coach Matt Scoggin, in his 20th year, also has his share of experience heading into the championships. Senior diver Maren Taylor is making her fourth appearance, while UCLA transfer Emma Ivory-Ganja, a junior diver, and freshman diver Murphy Bromberg will be making their first appearances at the championships.

Lobb is seeded 12th in the 50 freestyle and 35th in the 100 freetyle. On top of that, she is seeded 29th in the 100 butterfly. Moldenhauer, the Texas record holder, is seeded seventh in the 100 backstroke. She is seeded 12th in the 100 butterfly. Tucker is seeded 16th in the 200 freestyle.

The Longhorns also have three junior swimmers, Gretchen Jaques, Kelsey LeNeave and Kaitlin Pawlowicz, who are each making their third consecutive appearance. The two freshmen swimmers, Madisyn Cox and Tasija Karosas, are making their championship debuts. Even without much experience at a meet of this magnitude, Cox ranks 10th nationally in the 200 individual medley, and Karosas is seeded 11th in the 200 backstroke.

The Longhorns are not the favorite to win the meet, as head coach Carol Capitani’s alma-mater and previous employer, California and Georgia, come in ranked No. 1 and 2. But the team’s experience will help it. 

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.