In what is becoming a theme in this Championship season, the teams that won the most races weren’t the teams that won the Conference Championships, rather it was the teams that had built the deepest and strongest top-to bottom program that ran away with the title. Despite most teams focusing their greatest efforts on NCAA, rather than conference, championships, perhaps herein lies the value of these championships. To win a conference title, you can’t rely on just creating great swimmers, rather you need depth.
It reminds me of a quote that came across my Twitter feed today, courtesy of former Auburn coach David Marsh. It read something to the effect of “The mark of a great coach is not how many you can break to get one great one, but how many you can make.” In this case, Indiana and coach Ray Looze held true to this ideal and built the most out of the talent and resources that Indiana has available to them, as this was truly a team effort.
In this meet, both second-place Minnesota and seventh-place Wisconsin won more events than Indiana (six-a-piece). But even in events that they won, those two programs were consistently overwhelmed in point totals by Indiana, who took only four events. This is not to say that they didn’t have great swims. Allysa Vavra was one of the stars of the meet in sweeping the individual medleys.
True, these top-of-the-line swimmers probably line Minnesota and Wisconsin up for higher finishes at NCAA’s, but on this day, neither was even in the same area code as Indiana.
Let’s check out the final scores, records, and some meet highlights; and then we will hand out a few awards.
Final Team Scores
Like we said, Wisconsin finished a disappointing seventh. Without DQ’ing the 200 free relay, they would have been a much more respectable fourth though. Penn State has started crawling back towards the top of the Big Ten with a nice fourth place finish. The Ohio State women continue to reap the benefits (much like their men’s program) of their brilliant new facility and one of the best Athletics Departments in the country by taking third place. This is Ohio State’s highest finish since the 1993 and with many of their points coming from freshmen like Megan Detro, the future is bright. For Indiana, it was all about the ABC’s (fun fact: 18 out of 38 of Indiana’s swimmers have first names starting with an “A”, “B”, or “C”) as they had a ton of scorers show up in a ton of different places.
1. Indiana 821
2. Minnesota 578
3. Ohio State 456
4. Penn State 391
5. Purdue 385.5
6. Michigan 367
7. Wisconsin 360.5
8. Iowa 178
9. Northwestern 151
10. Michigan State 86
11. Illinois 82
Big Ten Championship Meet and Conference Records
This meet was one of the fastest (non-suited of course) records on history, and points to an overall rise in the conference’s competitiveness. In total, there were eight Big Ten Championship, and four Big Ten Conference, records broken in this meet. Both sets of these records were evenly divided between Minnesota and Indiana.
800 yard freestyle relay- University of Indiana-7:01.13-Big Ten Championship Record (previous mark of 7:01.65 set by Minnesota at 2009 Big Ten Championships)
1-meter diving-Kelci Bryant, Jr., Minnesota-370.30-Big Ten Championship Record (previous mark of 348.20 set by Bryant at 2010 Big Ten Championships)
400 individual medley-Allysa Vavra, Jr., Indiana-4:04.49-Big Ten Champonship and Conference Record (previous mark of 4:06.37 by Minnesota’s Jenny Shaughnessy at 2009 Big Ten Championships)
200 yard freestyle-Brittany Strumbel, Jr., Indiana-1:43.93-Big Ten Championship and Conference Record (previous mark of 1:44.73 set by Minnesota’s Jenny Shaughnessy at 2009 Big Ten Championships)
100 yard breaststroke-Jillian Tyler, Sr., Minnesota-58.08-Big Ten Championship and Conference Record (previous conference mark of 58.53 set by Tyler at 2009 NCAA Championships)
3-meter diving-Kelci Bryant, Jr., Minnesota-421.70-Big Ten Championship Record (previous conference mark of 400.75 set by Indiana’s Christina Loukas of Indiana at 2009 Big Ten Championships)
200 yard breaststroke-Jillian Tyler, Sr., Minnesota-2:07.11-Big Ten Championship and Conference Record (previous conference mark of 2:07.47 set by Ashley Wanland of Wisconsin at 2009 NCAA Championships)
platform diving-Amy Cozad, Soph., Indiana-371.50-Big Ten Championship Record (previous conference mark of 358.80 set by Christina Loukas of Indiana at 2007 Big Ten Championships) [This mark was set in the consolation final]
Races You Need to Know About
All-Time Bests- Jillian Tyler was unbelievable in both breaststroke events. In the 100 breast (58.08), she moved into third on the all-time list, and touched just .02 seconds off of Annie Chandler’s NCAA record. In the 200 breast, she swam a 2:07.11 that makes her the fifth fastest competitor ever. The 200 breaststroke was just a phenomenal race between Tyler and her teammate Haley Spencer, who was second in 2:07.61, but was chasing Tyler down as the race finished. Indiana’s Allysa Vavra, who posted an NCAA Automatic Qualifying time, also posted a great 2:09.71, but that mark was only good enough for third.
Two in a Row- Indiana’s Vavra, who we’ve already mentioned several times, swept the IM events at this year’s Big Ten Championships. Her 400 IM time, that was a conference and meet record, was the most impressive. She has a perfect form to be an outstanding IM’er, and it showed in that race en route to a 4:04.59. She is smooth through the fly and backstroke legs, super-efficient in the breaststroke, and this saves her a lot of energy for the freestyle. In this meet, she backed off a little on the freestyle, but a top-5 finish at NCAA’s is within her grasp.
Most Spectacular Relay– Wisconsin may not have the depth to compete for a Big Ten team title yet, but there aren’t many teams in the country that can beat them in a sprint medley. Their 1:36.68 in the meet’s first event is the second-best time in the country this season, and included a 21.95 anchor split from Beckie Thompson and a 23.03 fly mark from Rebecka Palm. The latter of these marks would have been tied for the fastest split in this relay at last year’s NCAA Championships. Wisconsin is walking a very-think line on their relay starts though, and really needs to be sure to nail those down between now and their trip to Austin. Beckie Thompson had a 0.00 reaction time on the medley, Wanland was very close to dead-on as well, and Wisconsin false-started the 200 free relay TWICE. Besides an early takeoff in Finals of that race, they reswam the event in a time-trial against Michigan, and had another false start from a different swimmer.
Poise Beyond Poise- After failing a dive, and balking on another during prelims, Indiana’s Amy Cozad was relegated to the consolation final in the platform diving, an event in which she had hopes for a top-5 finish. She could’ve folded things in, gone with an easy dive lineup and collected her 9th place award against competition that she was clearly better than. Instead, she decided to go for it, and bounced back in a way that nobody could have expected. Not only did she win the consolation final, she set a Big Ten Championship record with her score of 371.50, the second-best mark in the history of the storied Indiana diving program, and the day’s top mark. Not only that, but (even though diving scores are hard to compare as a judged event), this was her career-best score by almost 70 points.
Swimmer of the Meet- Jillian Tyler, Sr., Minnesota- We’ve hammered this nail repeatedly, but Tyler was spectacular in winning both breaststroke races in all-time top-5 performances. In addition, she had a very solid swim in the 200 IM to place 5th in 1:59.30. This was a very tight race between her and Vavra, but her winning times in the breaststrokes give her the slight edge.
honorable mention: Allysa Vavra, Indiana
Coach of the Meet- Ray Looze, Indiana- This one is a no-brainer. Looze has done a fantastic job of improving the level of all of his swimmers. He has fantastic seniors on his roster, as well as some great performances from under-heralded freshmen like Bronwyn Pasloski. The impressive margin of victory by Indiana is a product of Looze’s ability to keep his team focused despite a huge lead headed into the final day of competition, allowing Indiana to actually extend their lead by 100 or so points.
honorable mention: Kelly Kremer & Terry Nieszner, Minnesota
Freshman of the Meet- Chelsea Weedman, Fr., Penn St.- There weren’t a lot of strong freshmen performances in this meet (one of the few conferences where no freshmen won an event), but across her three events, Weedman had the strongest overall performance. She was 8th in the 200 IM, though her prelims mark of 1:58.40 made her third-fastest overall, 4th in the 400 IM (4:12.81), and third in the 200 fly (1:57.55). The latter of those performances was her best, and with the two swimmers ahead of her (Barwegen from Indiana and teammate Alexandra Young) both graduating, she will be the favorite to take the conference title in it next year.
honorable mention: Laura Ryan, Indiana (Diving)
Diver of the Year- Kelci Bryant, Jr., Minnesota- Bryant was dominant in her two events on the springboards; setting two Big Ten Championship records in the process. She will have some competition at NCAA’s this year, but she’s the favorite to repeat as the National Champion on both of these boards.
honorable mention: Laura Ryan, Indiana