The names in this women’s Big Ten Championship may not be as household as those in the SEC or the Pac-12, but the depth in the conference is unbelievable. Night 1 begins with the 200 medley and 800 free relays, where the Minnesota Golden Gophers are looking to defend their conference title and hold off Penn State and Indiana.
The first night features two relays that could be nail-biters, including a 200 medley that is wide-open this year.
Women’s 200 Medley Relay Final
The Minnesota women didn’t get off to the greatest start at the 2012 Big Ten Championships in this race, though they still ended up with a team title. This year, look out as they put up a great 1:36.89 to lead the meet off with a relatively easy win. The relay was Tess Behrens, Haley Spencer, Rebecca Weiland, and Erin Caflisch. The Gophers didn’t get off to a particularly fast start as they were more than a second in-the-hole to Indiana at the halfway mark, but their butterfliers and sprinters are who they’re really counting on this year, and they came through big: Weiland in 23.35 and Caflisch in 21.69. That relay should be even better at NCAA’s.
Indiana, meanwhile, had a great front-half with a 24.0 from freshman Brooklyn Snodgrass and senior Ashley Specht in an especially-good 26.62. They were bitten at the end of this race though by the lack of a lock-down sprinter, which we knew would be their weakness coming in. Sophomore Sara Delay anchored them in 22.53 – not too bad in the scheme of the whole race, but not enough to hang with the Gophers who have so much freestyle speed.
The Michigan women continued their reformation under Mike Bottom with a 1:37.84 school record for 3rd place. This was one of their better relays last year, though they DQ’ed at Big Tens. A 26.75 breaststroke split from junior Angie Chokran, who has stepped up as a leader for them this year, was big. Their rivals Ohio State took 4th in 1:37.89. Penn State took 5th in 1:37.97, breaking their school record for a stunning 5th-straight season; that included a 21.91 anchor from Paige Whitmire. Nebraska was a school record in 7th as well in 1:39.13.
Women’s 800 Medley Relay Final
The Indiana women took their 4th-consecutive Big Ten title in this women’s 800 free relay, swimming a 6:59.48 for a new Big Ten Record. That made them the first Big Ten team ever under 7 minutes (the two previous records were them last year at 7:00.82 for the meet, Minnesota in 7:00.65 last year for the overall).
What the Hoosiers lack in pure speed, they make up for in these middle-distance races. Their first four legs were all 1:44’s (Lindsay Vrooman, Cynthia Pammett, Haley Lips) with freshman Brooklyn Snodgrass anchoring in 1:45.35.
That consistency was what held off the Gophers, who had the fastest split of the field from Kiera Janzen who anchored them in 1:44.24. The team overall was a 7:01.27, but they usually get better in this relay at NCAA’s. Purdue was 3rd, with their program-changing sophomore Rhi Sheets splitting 1:44.63 on their second leg, and Penn State was 4th.
For all of the veterans that the Big Ten has, none of the top 6 relays graduate more than one swimmer off of their 800. Penn State and Indiana don’t graduate any. Middle distance swimming is strong in the north.
Live Meet Results available here.
Women’s Standings After Day 1
Surprise, surprise: the winners of the last 6 Big Ten titles, combined; Indiana and Minnesota sit tied atop the team standings after one day of competition. Penn State has been strong too, breaking school records, but we expected them to place maybe a bit higher in that 200 medley relay. Still, this shows balance and depth that should serve them well throughout this meet. The scoring is tight, as expected, in this balanced conference.
1. University of Minnesota 74
1. Indiana University 74
3. Pennsylvania State University 58
4. Michigan, University of 56
4. Ohio State University 56
6. Wisconsin, University of 54
7. Purdue University 50
8. University of Nebraska-Lincoln 42
9. Northwestern University 36
9. University of Iowa 36
11. University of Illinois 22
11. Michigan State University 22