MU women's swimmers score decisive victory in Border Showdown

Saturday, November 1, 2008 | 5:32 p.m. CDT; updated 9:42 p.m. CDT, Saturday, November 1, 2008

COLUMBIA — The pageantry of the MU-KU Border Showdown isn't limited to a sold out crowd at Arrowhead Stadium or a trip to historic Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence.

The No. 21 Missouri women's swimming and diving team's 173.5-121.5 victory over No. 23 Kansas on Saturday at the Mizzou Aquatic Center was evidence that the intensity of the longtime rivalry transcends television coverage and crowd size.

The MU mascot, Truman the Tiger, roamed the pool deck throughout the afternoon, and each of the freshmen swimmers from the MU men's team formed a shirtless, chest-painted cheering section that helped propel the Tigers' victory.

"Whenever it's Kansas we've got to show up in full force," freshman swimmer John Hunt said.

The crowd was a factor throughout the meet. As MU senior Lori Halvorson and sophomore Francie Szostak entered the final stretch of the 200-yard freestyle, the entire crowd rose to its feet and roared Szostak ahead of Kansas senior Maria Mayrovich to push the Tigers to a one-two finish with Halvorson winning in 1:49.14.

"It pushes adrenaline into you, even into the next race," Halvorson said of the crowd. "We get so excited, and get so much blood pumping. It's a lot of fun."

Tigers coach Brian Hoffer says that while the crowd may pale in comparison with those at other Missouri-Kansas sporting events, the people who do attend provide a boost for his team.

"I think it's an important element," Hoffer said. "We understand that we're not going to have a lot of people here but the people that are here are very passionate about the sport, and I think it provides a great environment for our athletes."

Beyond the omnipresent implications of the rivalry, the Tigers' decisive victory was a statement in a meeting between top-25 teams. After tying the Jayhawks at last week's Big 12 Relays, walking away with such a big win was a welcomed surprise to Hoffer.

"I think it was a surprise," Hoffer said of the quick lead the Tigers accumulated. "After the 200 freestyle, which was the third event, I really didn't think we'd win another event looking at their times and our times on paper."

The Tigers won several. Sophomore Lauren Lavigna won the 100-yard backstroke in 56.22 and senior Jill Granger was first in the 200-yard butterfly, which Hoffer said was unexpected.

Along with her win in the 100-yard freestyle, Halvorson also won the 200-yard version of the event as well.

Halvorson has enjoyed success throughout her career and this season, but when there are Jayhawks in the pool, the meet has a different feel.

"Even before we got out on deck, just in the locker room, the girls had so much energy and were just ready to get in there," Halvorson said. "Besides conference, it's probably the most fun meet of the year."

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