Not often does the coach of a third-place team earn Coach of the Year honors.
That honor was accorded Kansas University's Gary Kempf, however, after the Jayhawks finished third in the Big 12 Conference swimming and diving championships last week in Austin, Texas.
"The way they finished third was the real key," Kempf said.
Kansas went into the three-day meet expecting to battle with Texas A&M and Missouri for the third spot behind league powers Texas and Nebraska. Yet the Jayhawks blew both A&M and Missouri away, compiling 575 points to the Aggies' 462 and Mizzou's 410.
Kempf credited his five seniors.
"It was far and away the best performance by any group of seniors I've ever had," Kempf said. "You write a script about how you want a year to end and this was it."
The Fab Five -- four swimmers and diver Deanna Beiswanger -- all finished with a flourish.
Two of the swimmers -- Jeanine Wilk of Bloomington, Minn., and Julie Tompkins of Reno, Nev. -- reached the championship round of a league meet for the first time ever while swimming their fastest career times.
At the same time, Adrienne Turner of Goshen, Ind., and Quincy Adams of Fort Stockton, Texas, posted personal bests in three events each. Turner was third in both the 100 and 200 butterfly races while Adams was third in the 100 breaststroke and fifth in the 200 breaststroke.
Turner was also eighth in the 500 freestyle and Adams eight in the 200 IM -- again with personal best times.
Also, Beiswanger, who hails from Derby, was eighth on the one-meter board, 10th on the three-meter and 12th off the platform for her highest placings ever in a league meet.
"Our seniors finished their careers the way every athlete dreams," Kempf said. "They provided the leadership we needed to dominate Texas A&M and Missouri."
Because of the Jayhawks' unexpectedly strong showing, Kempf earned Big 12 Coach of the Year honors for the first time. Five times previously he had been named Coach of the Year in the now defunct Big Eight.
None of those five previous awards compare to this one, Kempf stressed.
"This was the most enjoyable meet I've had with the women in my 23 years as coach," he said. "This was not a team of stars. It was a lot of good athletes and a lot of good kids."
Kempf will return to Austin late next week for the Big 12 men's championships. He's in his 17th season as the Jayhawks' men's coach.
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