As snow was falling in Madison, school records were falling in Texas. Sophomore Cierra Runge demolished three individual marks and was part of a record-breaking relay en route to a strong showing for the Badger women at the Texas Hall of Fame Invitational.
On Wednesday night in Austin, Texas, in the first event of the meet, the ‘A’ relay of sophomore Jess Unicomb, redshirt sophomore Abby Jagdfeld, sophomore Emmy Sehmann and Runge shattered the four-year-old 800-yard freestyle relay record by over a second and a half. The previous record of 7:07.18 was set at the 2012 Big Ten Championships, and it stood through the entire careers of some of the best swimmers to come to Madison. Through the first three legs of the race, the Badgers looked to be slightly over record pace, but a blazing-fast 1:43.93 anchor leg from Runge changed the course of the race and stopped the clock at 7:05.42.
Runge also tore a pair of senior Danielle Valley’s school records to shreds later in the meet; easily winning both the 500-yard freestyle and the mile.
Valley’s time of 4:39.22 from 2015 in the 500-yard free was broken twice by Runge, once in prelims with a 4:38.84, and once in finals with an overall win and NCAA auto-qualifier time of 4:35.55. Valley tied her former record in finals and ended up finishing third overall.
In the mile, eight seconds separated Valley’s record, set last spring at the NCAA Championships, and Runge’s winning mark of 15:52.22. The U.S. Olympian’s time was another auto-qualifier and currently ranks fourth in the nation. In that race, Valley garnered runner-up honors and an NCAA provisional cut with her impressive time of 16:00.89.
In the 200-yard freestyle, Runge eviscerated her own two-week-old record by over two seconds to win with a time of 1:43.18, another auto-qualifying mark. Jagdfeld also had a strong race, taking 10th in a loaded field with a provisional cut of 1:46.40.
The rest of the team was equally as successful, posting many season-best marks. Most notably, twelve women—half the team—provisionally qualified for the NCAA Championships in March. Three swimmers—Sehmann, freshman Megan Doty and senior Grace Wold earned their first such marks. With this kind of success mid-season, the future is bright for the Badger women heading into the spring semester.
The Badgers will be back in action again January 13 against USC.