Barb Sabadall contributed the final session report on the women’s Big Ten Championship meet. Big thanks to her and Katrina Radke for leading our coverage of the Big Ten women’s championship.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers closed the meet with a bang, thanks to a great team performance in the 400 free relay and a great individual performance from breaststroker Haley Spencer. By the time the 4th night of competition rolled around, though, it was all icing on the cake, as Kelly Kremer’s charges had already sealed up their second-straight Big Ten title.
Lindsay Vrooman (Indiana) was rock-solid, splitting 28s-29 with her slowest split being a hiccup of 29.50. She finished in an automatic NCAA qualifying time of 15:51.20, which broke a 5 year-old meet record set in 2008 by Emily Brunemann (Michigan) by just .09 seconds, and an Indiana school record by a much larger margin of 5 seconds. The rest of the field (through 11th place) swam very well, all hitting the NCAA “B” standard. Interestingly, two “sleepers” made it into the top 8. Seeded in 15th was Freshman Sam Harding (MN) at 16:48.26. She swam an impressive 16:15.96 from lane 1 to win her afternoon heat, and ultimately capturing 5th place overall. Similarly, seeded in 18th at 16:54.10, was Senior Loren Brandon (MN) who cut 45 seconds from her seed time and won her afternoon heat in 16:09.55, which gave her the 3rd place award in the meet.
Indiana put 5 ladies into the A finals of the 200 back tonight. Freshman Brooklynn Snodgrass led the charge winning in 1:51.77, well under the NCAA “A” standard of 1:53.17, with the rest of the heat achieving “B” standards. In second place was Sophomore Cynthia Pammett in 1:53.58, followed by Emily Ceran (Sr) of Ohio State and Amy Modglin (Sr) of Penn State. Young Hoosiers Allie Day (Soph), Dorina Szekeres (Soph) and Justine Ress (Soph) were 5th, 6th and 7th. Katie Anton (Soph) of MN finished 8th.
Penn State Senior Paige Whitmire went from a 49.21 in prelims to a winning finals time of 48.74, which puts her 10th on the Big Ten Conference All-Time Top 10 Performers list. Lauren Gustafson (PUR) and Taylor Reynolds (NW) tied for 2nd with a 48.81; for Gustafson, that was a bit slower than she was in prelims, but Reynolds set a new personal-best by four tenths with that swim.
Freshmen Lauren Votava (MN) and Alyson Ackman (Penn State) were also under 49 at 48.88 and 48.93, respectively.
Senior Haley Spencer (MN) swam 2:07.26 in prelims of this 200 breaststroke, which was already just a second off of her winning time from the 2011 NCAA Championships. She was huge in finals though, with a blazing time of 2:05.98, breaking former teammate and Olympian Jillian Tyler’s 2011 team, meet and conference records in the event. Tyler was the favorite in the race, you’ll recall, that Spencer won in 2011.
With that swim, Spencer joined an elite club that, including SEC’s, has only seen 7 swimmers faster than 2:06 and now ranks as the 6th-best yards swimmer in history.
She graduates after this season, but the Minnesota breaststroke tradition should continue, as freshman teammate Kierra Smith finished in second with 2:08.56, also making the “A” standard. Indiana’s Ashley Specht took 3rd in 2:09.42, followed by Michigan’s Angie Chokran in 2:10.54.
Senior Shannon Draves (Ohio) won, finishing in 1:55.12, ahead of Sophomore Devin Ste. Marie (MN), who went 1:56.48. That win gave the Buckeyes their first individual title of the meet and Draves her second-consecutive win in this event. Indiana Freshman Hailey Lips dropped over a second from prelims to finals, going 1:57.11 and finishing 3rd. Also impressive was Courtney Beidler, another Michigan swimmer making big improvements under Mike Bottom this year, who was seeded 8th at 1:59.28 in this final and jumped up to finish 4th with a 1:57.49.
The ladies did not fail to impress tonight. Senior Amy Cozad (Indiana) dominated the preliminary rounds scoring 334.60 points. She bettered that to a new conference and meet record of 390.05, breaking her own meet record from 2011 and former teammate Amy Korthauer’s conference record of 388.95 set in 2009. The rest of the field rose to the challenge, all scoring extremely well. Mackenzie Tweardy (Purdue) was 2nd with 343.30 points. The Lenz sisters – Felicitas (Sr) and Cosima (Jr) finished 3rd and 5th, scoring 342.70 and 320.60 respectively. In 4th was Sarah McCrady (Jr- MN) with 332.00. Maddie Keefer (Sr –MN) finished 6th with 317.05 followed by Madelyn Miskulin (Purdue) at 294.80 and Kate Hillman (Indiana) with 288.90.
400 Free Relay
The Minnesota relay of Lauren Votava (Fr.), Becca Weiland (So.), Erin Caflisch (Jr.) and Blake Zeiger (So.) all stayed under 49 for a winning time of 3:15.18. Minnesota doesn’t have the flashy star ala Megan Romano of Georgia, but what they do have is one of the most balanced freestyle groups in the country, as was evidenced by that swim.
In second place was the foursome from Penn State (Alyson Ackman (Fr), Carolyn Fittin (So), Katelyn Miller (So) and Paige Whitmire (Sr)) in 3:16.15, including a 48.41 anchor from Whitmire that was the fastest split of the field. Both were automatic NCAA qualifying times.
Purdue took 3rd in 3:18.08 with Nebraska next at 3:18.10. Wisconsin rounded out the top 5 finishing in 3:18.36, which was not quite as fast as had been hoped for, especially with their sprint group swimming so well this season.
It is worthy to note that Northwestern Senior Taylor Reynolds split a 48.87 and Sophomore Ivy Martin (WI) split 48.90 in their relay legs. They, with the Minnesota relay and Paige Whitmore from the Penn State relay, were the only swimmers under 49 in tonight’s relays.
- U of Minnesota 831.5
- Indiana 671.5
- Pennsylvania State 498.5
- Ohio State 384
- Purdue 363
- U of Michigan of 309
- U of Wisconsin of 249
- Northwestern 203.5
- Nebraska 195
- U of Iowa 113
- U of Illinois 56
11. Michigan State 56