NCAA championships

Women's Swimming and Diving

California proved too much for the Longhorns to handle at the NCAA Championships and the Golden Bears took home first place for the second time in as many years. It was Cal's third title in four years.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Texas finished in ninth place at this year’s NCAA Championships in Auburn, Ala., as California won its second title
in a row.

Texas has finished in the top 10 in 11 of its past 13 seasons and capped off this year’s championships with 201 points and 20 All-America honors.

Swimmers Bethany Adams, Kelsey Amundsen, Karlee Bispo, Kelsey LeNeave, Ellen Lobb, Lily Moldenhauer, Katie Riefenstahl, Laura Sogar, Samantha Tucker and diver Diana Wilcox were all recognized for top 16 performances.

The Longhorns kicked off the meet on a strong note by breaking a school record in the 200 freestyle relay. Bispo, Adams, Lobb and Amundsen combined for a 1:27.65, outdoing the previous record of 1:28.06 set at last year’s NCAA Championships.

Senior Bispo finished a strong last season with 47 points at the end of the three-day meet, making her the seventh highest individual scorer at the championships. Bispo broke school records in the 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle and 200 freestyle relay.

Bispo’s second place finish in Thursday’s 200 freestyle race was a mere second behind Georgia’s Megan Romano, who broke the NCAA record with a time of 1:41.21.

Junior Laura Sogar placed in the top eight in both breaststroke events this weekend and said the chemistry of the team provided moments of lightheartedness in what could have been a stressful atmosphere.

“Any time I am with my teammates I have a good time,” Sogar said. “It was a good competition and we had some good swims. It was a lot of fun and a great experience.”

Bispo, Amundsen, Adams and Tucker earned sixth place in the 400 freestyle relay, clocking in at 3:14.41.

In the last race of her career as a Longhorn, senior Katie Riefenstahl swam for eighth place in the 200 backstroke consolation B final, earning one point for the team.

“I didn’t do what I wanted to do but at the end of the day what places I get in swimming don’t mean as much as the experience I have gotten from swimming and going to school at Texas,” Riefenstahl said. “I have so much more waiting for me and am excited for what is next.”

Diana Wilcox also picked up a team point in the platform diving consolation finals, tallying a score of 232.8 for eighth place.

“I had a really good experience and learned a lot about myself and competing,” Wilcox said of her experience at the NCAA Championships. “I improved on some things and look forward to being better in the future.”

The meet capped off a tough but rewarding season, complete with the expected highs and lows but marked by determination and team dedication.

“It was fun to battle and the team fought hard,” head coach Kim Brackin said. “I thought the team performed extremely well in an incredibly fast meet.”

Sophomore Cokie Reed defends an inbound pass against Missouri two seasons ago. Reed sat out all of last season after receiving surgery to remove an extra bone and repair a tendon in her right foot.

Photo Credit: Bruno Morlan | Daily Texan Staff

For Cokie Reed, watching the Texas A&M women’s basketball squad win this year’s NCAA Championships brought back a feeling she has known since she begun her athletic career — competitiveness.

“It’s a love-hate relationship,” Reed said. “I’m happy for A&M. But anytime your rival wins a championship, and you’re not in it, there’s some animosity.”

Reed, a sophomore post who was sidelined all year with a foot injury, admits she has quite a few connections with A&M but she’s forever a Longhorn at heart.

“I know a lot of girls on the team; I have friends there. I’m happy for them,” Reed said. “But it’s in our blood, as a Longhorn, to not go against A&M.”

After a freshman season for the record books, Reed underwent surgery last October to remove an extra bone and repair a tendon in her right foot.

Texas head coach Gail Goestenkors vowed the team would prevail despite the loss of Reed. But the lack of Reed’s offensive presence and height was apparent, plaguing the Longhorns for much of their season.

While the surgery ultimately benefited Reed, she couldn’t help but feel frustrated with her predicament. For Reed, being simply an observer in an up-and-down season was trying.

“It was tough to be on the sideline injured,” she said. “I just wanted to play, to help them, to make it better. But I couldn’t.”

Instead, Reed made the best of her situation, offering advice to younger players or filming her “Courtside with Cokie” series for the Texas Athletics website.

“I was at every practice; I was there to encourage my team,” the sophomore said. “Courtside with Cokie was a way for me to stay close with the fans and let them know I was still around, even with an injury.”

In the seven months since her surgery, Reed has constantly been rehabilitating her foot. But the desire to get back on the court with her team fuels her focus.

“Not being able to play was motivation in itself for Cokie. She has put in the time and effort to be a dominant player in the Big 12,” said Logan Schwartz, the strength and conditioning coach for the women’s basketball team. “She wants to come back and make up for lost time, and her effort has been unbelievable.”

Schwartz is so impressed, he foresees Reed returning as a true asset to the squad.

“Her attitude and consistency throughout rehab and workouts and her will to help the team leaves no doubt that we’ll see a new Cokie Reed on the court this season,” Schwartz said.

While Reed has yet to get back out to scrimmaging on the hardwood, she realizes it’s a day-to-day process.

As the injury brought change to the busy schedule Reed used to juggle, the post admits she’s had a hard time keeping up with schoolwork.

“It’s definitely backwards,” Reed said. “You’d think not having to practice as much would be good for my grades, but actually, it’s been hard to keep up.”

Even at less than 100 percent, Reed already has a prediction for next season.

“I think our future is bright; we can only go up from here. We’ll be in the top half of the Big 12,” Reed said. “High in the top.”

Reed still has months of rehabilitation to go but she continues to keep the thought of A&M’s championship in the back of her head.

“For them to be our rival and have that national championship, it’s going to make it even more competitive when we play them next year,” she said. “It’s a complete motivator for me.”

Two weekends ago, the Longhorns placed a disappointing seventh at the Big 12 championships. With five conference championships to their name since 1996, the poor performance was uncharacteristic. Now, as Friday’s NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., approach, the team is looking to get back into its usual championship form.

“Whatever happened yesterday, you have to move on,” head coach Beverly Kearney said about the team’s outlook.

Although the Big 12 championship may be in the past, some of the problems that hindered the team at that meet linger. The Longhorns are still short on depth — only four individuals and one relay team will make the trip to Fayetteville.

“We just have less room for error, so we’re going to have to maximize on what we’ve got,” Kearney said about overcoming this shortage of competitors.

Luckily for Kearney and the Longhorns, history is on their side. The team is currently riding a seven-year streak of top-10 finishes. More importantly, they have finished fourth the past two years with teams that only consisted of three individuals and one relay.

This past success, which has come without a lot of depth, can partially be attributed to the difference in scoring systems between the national and conference meets.

According to redshirt junior Betzy Jimenez, the conference meet awards the most points for placing a lot of athletes, but the national meet awards the most points for placing these athletes in top positions. So, the Longhorns’ concerns about depth can be overcome if each individual places well.

“At nationals, it’s about quality, not quantity,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez, a distance specialist who will be competing in the 3,000-meter and the mile, missed all of the 2009 season due to injury. If this weren’t enough, a recent illness forced her to miss a week of practice prior to the Big 12 championships. With her illness now under control and her health intact, Jimenez says she’s ready to let loose.

“When you battle all these obstacles, it just makes you want it that much more,” Jimenez said. “I’m ready to go out and have some fun.”

Joining Jimenez will be senior shot putter Jordyn Brown, junior long jumper Chantel Malone, and sophomore sprinter Angele Cooper. Malone and Cooper, along with Judy Nwosu and Stacey-Ann Smith, also make up the 4x400-meter relay team that will be competing.

Brown, the team’s only individual All-American, will bring the most experience to the meet.

She heads into the meet ranked 13th, but she placed fourth at last year’s national championship.

Though not as seasoned as the senior shot putter, Malone and Cooper have also been tested on the national stage. The two were both members of last year’s outdoor 4x400-meter national championship team. Malone will come in as the reigning Big 12 long jump champion, and Cooper placed second in the 400-meter at the conference championship.

“We can’t hold ourselves back by thinking too much,” Cooper said. “We’ve been practicing everyday for this. Now it’s just time to go out there and fight for Texas.”

What: NCAA Championships
Where: Fayetteville, Ark.
When: All Day Friday/Saturday
Tickets/On Air: N/A