The Liberty swimming & diving team heads to Kansas for the first time in program history, competing against the Kansas Jayhawks this weekend at Robinson Natatorium in Lawrence, Kan.
The meet will begin on Friday at 6 p.m. Eastern, with the 200 medley relay. Day two commences Saturday at noon Eastern, with the 400 medley relay. There will be 19 total events contested, including 10 on Friday and nine on Saturday.
This will be the first meeting all-time between Liberty and Kansas in swimming & diving. Liberty is 1-0 all-time against Big 12 teams, defeating TCU on Oct. 9, 2015. The Lady Flames have posted seven wins versus Power 5 teams, including at least one from each major conference.
The Lady Flames finished second at the 2017 CCSA Championships, its third straight conference runner-up finish and fifth in program history. Liberty won its first conference championship in 2014. Kansas has posted runner-up finishes at the Big 12 Championships each of the last two years, and three out of the last four.
Liberty opened the season with a win over Campbell for the fourth year in a row, downing the Camels, 159-137, last Saturday in Buies Creek, N.C.
Six different Lady Flames earned individual-event victories on Saturday at Campbell, including three freshmen (Lindsey Cohee, Kiah Francis and Payton Keiner) who were competing in their first collegiate meet.
Senior Rachel Hoeve won the 50 free in 24.15, winning the event for the seventh straight time in dual-meet action, dating back to last season. Fellow senior Ashlee Sall claimed the 500 free with a 5:11.59 clocking.
Junior Ricki Lee Hodges earned her second career individual-event victory, swimming 1:06.21 to win the 100 breaststroke.
Cohee, in her first career individual race for Liberty, took the 200 fly in 2:06.59. Keiner pocketed the 200 backstroke victory in 2:05.20, while Francis earned her first career event win as a Lady Flame, clocking 2:08.46 to win the 200 IM.
Liberty made three new entries in its all-time top 10 performers list on Saturday. Cohee's 200 fly time ranks 10th in program history, while Emily Manly (1000 free, 10:38.14) and Keiner (200 back) both rank 10th on the all-time program list for their events.
A key moment in program history will take place this season, as the Liberty Natatorium is set to open this fall. The Lady Flames will contest their first meet at the state-of-the-art facility on Dec. 1-2, with the Grand Opening set for Jan. 26-27. The Liberty Natatorium will house an Olympic-sized pool with a separate diving well, along with seating for 1,400 spectators in a wraparound setting. The facility will feature the newest and best technology.
Head Coach Jake Shellenberger is in his eighth season at the helm, guiding the program since the inaugural 2010-11 campaign. He has posted a 74-28 dual-meet record, twice being named CCSA Women's Swimming Coach of the Year. His teams have gone 43-14 against CCSA competition.
Junior Alicia Finnigan returns after a standout 2016-17 season. She won the 200 fly at the conference meet, before setting a conference record, with a time of 1:56.15 at the Bulldog Last Chance Meet to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Finnigan closed out her dominant campaign in the summer, tying for 10th place in the 200-meter butterfly against a challenging field at the Phillips 66 National Championships.
Finnigan (500 free, 100 fly, 200 fly) and Prudence Rooker (100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke, 200 IM) became the fifth and sixth swimmers in program history to post three top-three finishes at a single CCSA Championship meet.
Sophomore Brittany Weiss returns after earning Most Outstanding Freshman of the CCSA Meet in 2017, the third Lady Flame all-time to win the award. She won the CCSA 100 back in program-record, NCAA B cut time, 53.42, becoming the first Liberty swimmer to win the 100 back at the CCSA Championships. She also swam a B cut in the 100 fly, placing fifth in 54.15.
Senior Prudence Rooker is a five-time podium finisher at the conference level, including three medal performances in 2017. Last season, she placed second at the CCSA Championships in the 100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke and 200 IM. Rooker swam B cuts in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM.
Senior Rachel Hoeve made three A Finals appearances at the 2017 CCSA Championships, highlighted by a fourth-place finish in the 50 free in NCAA B cut, personal-best 22.76. Her 22.76 50 free is tied for third in program history. She was dominant in dual meets last year, winning the 50 free all six times she contested it in 2016-17.
The 2017-18 Lady Flames return 21 student-athletes from last year's squad, while welcoming 11 newcomers. With the opening of the Liberty Natatorium imminent, Liberty has fielded a complement of seven divers.
Liberty returns 16 student-athletes who scored points at the 2017 CCSA Championships. Among Liberty's returnees, Hannah Baker (50 free, 100 free, 200 free), Shelby Black (500 free), Danielle Boothe (100 back), Colleen Donlin (50 free, 100 free), Alicia Finnigan (100 fly, 200 fly, 500 free), Ricki Lee Hodges (100 breaststroke), Rachel Hoeve (50 free, 100 free, 100 back), Dani Jordan (1650 free), Elizabeth Magnusson (500 free), Morgan Noonan (200 breaststroke), Chelsea Pond (200 free), Prudence Rooker (100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke, 200 IM), Ashlee Sall (200 free, 1650 free) and Brittany Weiss (100 back, 100 fly) all earned top-eight placings at last year's league meet.
Kansas Kansas finished second to Texas at the 2017 Big 12 Championships, scoring 683.5 points. The Jayhawks return five athletes who earned All-Big 12 mention during the 2017 conference meet.
Sophomore Haley Downey returns after an All-Big 12 first team performance in 2017. Downey led the Jayhawks with 45 points at the 2017 Big 12 Championships, placing third in both the 100 breaststroke and 200 breaststroke and sixth in the 200 IM. Senior Madison Straight picked up first team all-conference honors last year, finishing third in the 400 IM. Junior Libby Walker earned top-seven finishes in the 1650 free (4th), 400 IM (7th) and 200 fly (6th) in 2017. Sophomore Jenny Nusbaum placed 4th in the Big 12 200 free finals, while finishing 5th in the 1650 free and seventh in the 500 free.
Following this weekend's meet, the Lady Flames will have a week off from competition before contesting the Virginia Tech Duals, Oct. 20 at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center. That meet will see Liberty take on Virginia Tech, North Carolina, VMI and Queens.
Order of Events Friday, Oct. 6 200 Medley Relay 1000 Freestyle 200 Freestyle 100 Backstroke 100 Breaststroke 200 Butterfly 50 Freestyle 1-meter Diving (6 dives) 200 Individual Medley 400 Freestyle Relay
Saturday, Oct. 7 400 Medley Relay 400 Individual Medley 100 Freestyle 200 Backstroke 100 Butterfly 500 Freestyle 3-meter Diving (6 dives) 200 Breaststroke 200 Freestyle Relay