FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.(Univ. of Ark.) - The University of Arkansas swimming and diving team on upset No. 12 Penn State and Missouri State on Senior Day. Arkansas defeated the Nittany Lions in the closest meet since the Razorbacks defeat of Kansas in the 2007-08 season when they won by one point (150.5-149.5). With the two wins Arkansas improved to 5-1 on the season, their best start since the 2010-11 season. The Razorbacks finished the day with eight event wins and one, one-two finish.
"It was a great competition with Penn State and Missouri State," head coach Sean Schimmel said. "I told the team at the beginning of the meet that every stroke and every dive would count. At the break we were all tied up at 74.5 and we just stayed focused and stayed on task and controlled what we could control and the women were a real championship type team today."
Arkansas opened up the meet strong with a win in the 200 medley relay to lead both the Nittany Lions and Bears. The relay team of sophomore Shana Lim, sophomore Nikki Daniels, sophomore Susanna White and freshman Nina Drolc recorded the third-best time in school history with a time of 1:41.39. Lim started things off with a 25.59 split for the lead, and Arkansas was able to hold on throughout the race.
The Razorbacks 'B' relay team didn't disappoint either as they picked up a big third-place victory as the relay team of freshman Anna Mayfield, sophomore Julia Banach, junior Liz Braun and freshman Maddie Monroe recorded a time of 1:44.80.
Arkansas' Mayfield got off to a strong start in the 200 freestyle. The San Antonio, Texas native held the lead from the get-go finishing the first leg with just a one-hundredth of a second lead, but she was able to lengthen her lead throughout the race. Mayfield out-touched the Nittany Lions at the wall to take the win for the Razorbacks with a time of 1:49.35. Mayfield's win lengthened the Razorback lead over PSU to 30-25 and the lead over Missouri State to 47-8.
After PSU went one-three in the 100 backstroke Arkansas needed a push to spring back into the lead against Penn State and it was Daniels who pulled through for the Cardinal and White, clocking a 1:02.68, which was good enough to take first. Sophomore Julia Banach brought home third-place to send the Razorbacks over Penn State (48-45) and Missouri State (78-15).
The Razorback diving core had a tremendous outing on the three-meter board as they went 1-2-3-4, all posting NCAA qualifying scores. Junior diver Kesha Naylor set a new pool record as she recorded the second-best score in school history with a score of 355.75. Freshman Hannah Bortnick tallied a score of 315.85 for a personal-best on the three-meter. Shelby Bartlett and Meaghan Clark also tallied personal bests with scores of 293.35 and 291.90 respectively.
In the 50 freestyle White nabbed her second-best time of the season with a 23.25 to take second place in the 50 free. The Razorbacks would follow with two second-place performances in the 100 freestyle and the 200 backstroke as Nina Drolc recorded a 51.39 in the 100 freestyle and Mayfield clocked a 158.40 for second in the 200 backstroke. The Razorbacks finished second to the Nittany Lions in all three events, but topped Missouri State.
Despite trailing by Penn State points the Razorbacks were out to show they weren't going down without a fight as Daniels and Banach put on a show in the 200 breaststroke, finishing a much-needed one-two and exuding a tremendous applause from the strong Razorback crowd. Daniels maintained a consistent pace throughout the race as she clocked under 35 seconds on every leg and was the only swimmer to do so. She finished with a time of 2:15.26. Banach on the other hand was trailing the Nittany Lions after the third leg and needed a strong close to clinch second-place. Banach clocked a 36.16 on her final 50 yards and out-touched PSU by .22 at the wall for a final time of 2:17.47.
The Arkansas diving core once again shined on the boards as they recorded another 1-2-3-4 finish on the one-meter with Bortnick joining Naylor in qualifying for the NCAA Zone diving championships on the one-meter with a season-best score of 272.50 and second-place. Naylor walked away with the victory after a season-best score of 310.90.
"The women did a great job today and I am really proud of them and their effort showed," head diving coach Dale Schultz said. "They've been training hard."
The one-two finish was the first for the Razorbacks on the day and was enough to springboard them within seven points of the Nittany Lions, 106.5-99.5. Arkansas held a strong lead over the Bears with a score of 172-35.
On the ensuing event, The Razorbacks would jump back into the lead after the diving wins and a big win in the 500 freestyle by Jordan, who snagged the top-time (4:52.30) to put Arkansas up by two points, 113.5-111.5.
With only seven points separating the Razorbacks and Nittany Lions going into the final two races it was anybody's meet. Arkansas refused to let the Nittany Lions take the race in the 400 IM as Junior Julia Kucherich gave the Razorbacks some much-needed points with a third-place finish with a time of 4:21.92.
With Kucherich's third-place finish it was winner-take-all in the final race of the night, the 400 freestyle. Arkansas put on a show as the relay team of Drolc, Mayfield, freshman Maddie Monroe and White bested PSU by nearly three seconds to take the first-place finish and the meet win with a time of 3:21.63. The time was also good for second in school history.
Prior to the meet the swimming and diving team took the time to recognize its four seniors, Chelsea Franklin, Courtney Hubbard, Sigrun Sverrisdottir, Alyssa Tomlinson and team manager Shannon Samluk.
"I'm always impressed when we get to Senior day for all the work that swimmers and divers do academically and in the water and on the boards," Shcimmel said.
Arkansas will hit the road for their next competition, facing South Carolina and Florida State in a double-dual meet on Friday, Jan. 18 and squaring off against Davidson the following day on Saturday, Jan. 19. Arkansas' final dual meet of the season will be on Feb. 2 as Arkansas faces Kansas.