Armstrong’s Big 12 Title Leads WVU

  • By Charlie Healy
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  • February 24, 2017 11:38 PM
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va.  – Sophomore Jake Armstrong won the Big 12 Conference title in the 100 breaststroke as the West Virginia University swimming and diving team won four medals and earned 23 A final finishes on the third day of the Big 12 Swimming and Diving Championship on Friday evening, in Austin, Texas.
Armstrong’s Big 12 title is WVU’s fifth men’s title and ninth overall since joining the conference in 2013. It is the Mountaineers’ first in a breaststroke event for either the men or women. Armstrong’s time of 53.09 is the second-fastest time in program history.
Along with Armstrong’s gold, sophomore Julia Calcut placed won silver on 1-meter, sophomore Merwane El Merini earned bronze in the 100 backstroke and junior Logan McHenry claimed the bronze medal on 3-meter.
Through the third day of competition at the four-day Big 12 Championship, the WVU men are in second place with 566 points. The women sit in third place with 390.5 points. Texas leads both the men’s and women’s rankings, with 748 men’s points and 694 women’s points. The Kansas women sit in second with 437.5 points, just ahead of WVU.
“What a great night,” WVU coach Vic Riggs said. “Julia (Calcut) finishing second on the boards and Jake (Amrstrong) winning the men's 100 breaststroke was very exciting. Overall we had a great session. We had a very strong showing in the 100 butterfly, with Morgan (Bullock) and Jack (Frazier) leading with way with a fourth- and sixth-place finish.
“Both the men’s and women’s divers put on a great show today and have really helped with our team battle. We're in a solid second on the men and in a strong position in third for the women going into tomorrow.”
The highlight of the night for the Mountaineers was the 100 breaststroke and Armstrong’s Big 12 title. He touched the wall in 53.09, the second-fastest time in the event and an NCAA B-qualifying time. One of just three swimmers to finish under 54 seconds, he claimed the victory by 0.58 seconds. Armstrong was joined in the A final by junior Drew Riebel, who placed sixth with a 55.23, also an NCAA B-qualifying time.
For the women, sophomore Emma Harris’ 1:02.26 placed her fourth overall and also was an NCAA B-qualifying time.
“Emma had a great 100, with a fourth-place finish,” Riggs said. “Obviously the swim of the night was from Jake and his win in the 100 breaststroke. Having a Big 12 Champion is something special and I'm really happy for him and (associate head coach) Damion Dennis. His time puts him in a strong shot at making the NCAA Championships, which is exciting.”
The divers opened the day in a big way for West Virginia, placing a total of eight athletes in both the men’s and women’s top eight on 3-meter. McHenry led five men into the finals, while Calcut led a cast of four Mountaineers to advance in the women’s competition.
McHenry placed third with a 357.30, followed by junior Michael Proietto in fourth (352.20) and junior Alex Obendorf in fifth (337.95). Right behind him was sophomore Austin Smith in sixth, with a 323.15. Freshman Gerald Hodges advanced to the finals and placed eighth with a 273.10.
For the women, Calcut’s silver was thanks to a 328.45, one of three scores to eclipse 300 points. Sophomore Madelyn Woods was fourth (288.90), ahead of fellow sophomore Averly Hobbs (281.10).
“The girls all had an outstanding final today,” said diving coach Michael Grapner. “They were confident and consistent. The prelim was good, but they really came back tonight with determination to compete. Julia didn't miss a dive. She increased her degree of difficulty for this meet and it all paid off. Madelyn and Averly made some great improvements from prelims and it all paid off.
“The men really kept it together for tonight's finals. They were consistent and made all the right improvements from prelims to finals. I'm very proud of Logan, he stayed very calm and collected and put a very good list together. This men's team has their best competitions amongst themselves and it made this final very fun.”
The first swimming event of the evening’s finals was the 100 butterfly, where the women posted three top-eight finishes and the men one.
Freshman Morgan Bullock led the women’s squad with a fourth-place finish thanks to an NCAA B-qualifying time of 54.12. Junior Amelie Currat was seventh with a 54.99, while freshman Julia Miranda placed eighth with a 55.16.
The men were led by freshman Jack Frazier, who touched the wall in 49.03 to finish sixth overall.
Next up was the 400 individual medley. Junior James Koval paced the men with a 3:57.63 to finish sixth overall. He was followed by freshman Brandon Christian, who placed seventh with a 4:00.56. Christian’s finish was just 0.07 seconds ahead of TCU’s eighth-place finisher.
The women were led by freshman Alex Pampalone, who finished ninth overall and first in the B final with a 4:21.98, and junior Taylor Gill, who was 11th overall with a 4:26.99.
“We had solid 400IMs from our Alex and Taylor,” Riggs added. “James and Brandon both swam very strong swims as well, finishing sixth and seventh.”
In the 200 freestyle, three Mountaineers earned A final appearances. Sophomore Drew Damich was sixth with a 1:38.55, just ahead of freshman teammate Ryan Kelly, who finished seventh with a 1:38.62. For the women, it was senior Emma Skelley leading the way, as she was eighth with a 1:51.00.
“Emma led our 200 Freestyle for the women, followed by Drew and Ryan all scoring in the top 8,” Riggs said.
El Merini’s bronze came in the 100 backstroke. He touched the wall in 47.70, good for an NCAA B-qualifying time. He finished ahead of freshman teammate Luke Hene, who was fourth in 49.48. For the women, Currat added a fifth-place finish in the 100 backstroke, touching the wall in 54.54 for an NCAA B-qualifying time.
“Amelie had a strong backstroke for a fifth-place finish and Merwane and Luke finished third and fourth,” Riggs said. “Additionally, our relays did what they needed to do tonight.”
The night ended with the 200 freestyle relay. The men placed second with a 1:20.39, thanks to El Merini, Damich, freshman Sam Neaveill and Armstrong. The women earned a fourth-place finish in 1:33.85, courtesy of freshman Julia Nilton, sophomore Maggie Miller, Miranda and sophomore Sam Hall.
Saturday’s final day of the Big 12 Championship will begin with preliminary events at 11:00 a.m. ET. The finals will follow in the evening.
FloSports is providing live video coverage of the Big 12 Championship on FloSwimming.com. Fans can also follow the meet live at sidearmstats.com. Additional championship information is available at Big12sports.com.
2017 Big 12 Championship’s Schedule of Events:
Note: For each individual swimming event, the women's event will be swum first, followed by the men's event. Championship relays will be swum prior to B relays.
Saturday, Feb. 25
Preliminaries – 11 a.m. ET
200 backstroke
100 freestyle
200 breaststroke
200 butterfly
400 freestyle relay
12:45 p.m. ET: Men’s platform diving
3:40 p.m. ET: Women’s platform diving
Finals – 5:30 p.m. ET
Men's platform diving 
7 p.m. ET
200 backstroke
100 freestyle
**1,650 freestyle
200 breaststroke
200 butterfly
Women’s platform diving       
400 freestyle relay
** The start times for all but the final heat of the 1650 will be set to finish heats by 6:00 PM
For more information on the Mountaineers, visit WVUsports.com and follow WVUSwimDive on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.