FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – No. 25 Arkansas upset No. 12 Penn State and defeated Missouri State the HPER Natatorium on Saturday. Arkansas barely defeated the Nittany Lions 151.5-146.5 and the Bears 250-50 to go 2-0 on the day.
“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.”
Arkansas’ win against Penn State was the closest margin of victory for an Arkansas team since the 2007-08 season when the Razorbacks defeated Kansas by a single 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 a one-two finish.
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 sophomores Shana Lim, Nikki Daniels, Susanna White and freshman Nina Drolc recorded the third-best time in school history at 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 Razorback “B” relay team of freshman Anna Mayfield, sophomore Julia Banach, junior Liz Braun and freshman Maddie Monroe didn’t disappoint either as they picked up a big third-place finish with a time of 1:44.80.
Arkansas’ Mayfield got off to a strong start in the 200 freestyle. She 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 against PSU to 30-25 and the lead against Missouri State to 47-8.
After PSU went one-three in the 100 backstroke, Daniels 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 past Penn State (48-45) and Missouri State (78-15).
The Razorback diving core had a solid outing on the 3-meter board as they went 1-2-3-4, all posting NCAA qualifying scores. Junior diver Kesha Naylor set a pool record, the second-best score in school history, with a score of 355.75. Freshman Hannah Bortnick got a score of 315.85 for a personal-best on the 3-meter. Shelby Bartlett and Meaghan Clark also earned personal bests with scores of 293.35 and 291.90.
In the 50 freestyle, White nabbed her second-best time of the season with a 23.25 to take second place in the event. The Razorbacks followed 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 Penn State, Daniels and Banach put on a show in the 200 breaststroke, finishing one-two. Daniels maintained a consistent pace throughout the race as she clocked under 35 seconds on every leg. She finished with a time of 2:15.26. On the other hand, Banach 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 1-meter with Bortnick joining Naylor in qualifying for the NCAA zone diving championships on the 1-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 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 third 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 against the Bears with a score of 172-35.
On the ensuing event, the Razorbacks jumped 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.
Only seven points separating the Razorbacks and Nittany Lions going into the final two races. Arkansas refused to let the Nittany Lions take the race in the 400 IM as junior Julia Kucherich gave the Razorbacks 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. 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.