2015 Big Ten Women’s Championships Fan Guide: Minnesota Looks for 4th Straight Title

B1G WOMEN

  • When: Wednesday, February 18th to Saturday, February 21st | Prelims 11am | Finals 6:30pm
  • Where: McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion, Columbus, OH (Eastern Time Zone)
  • Defending Champion: Minnesota Gophers
  • Live Results 
  • Live Video
  • Championship Central: here

It was the Minnesota Gophers last year who took the throne for the third consecutive season, scoring 760 points to end up ahead of the Indiana Hoosiers, who finished with 649. The two powerhouses sucked up most of the big points, with no other team scoring over 500.

While the Gophers did lose top diver Maggie Keefer and relay studs Erin Caflisch and Tess Behrens to graduation, they still have defending 100 and 200 breaststroke champion Kierra Smith, a powerful mid-distance free group, and a very talented freshman class, which includes IM-er and Junior National Teamer Brooke Zeiger and butterflier Danielle Nack. While the only quick replacement for Caflisch and Behrens on those sprint relays is Nack, the Gopher women look poised for another conference title in 2015, which would be their fourth-straight.

Right on the Gophers’ heels will be last year’s runners up Indiana as well as a Michigan squad which recently completed its first undefeated conference season since 2008. The Hoosiers have a deep backstroke crew which is led by defending NCAA 200 backstroke champion Brooklyn Snodgrass, who was also 4th at last year’s NCAA’s in the 100 back, and the addition of Canadian freshman Kennedy Goss will help in part to fill the gap left by now-graduated distance star Lindsay Vrooman. It’s all about freshmen for the Wolverines, whose class of 2018 is led by Clara Smiddy (2014-15 US National Team) and three junior national team members, Gillian Ryan, Hannah Moore, and Emily Kopas.

Things have been coming together for Wisconsin this year, who will look to improve upon their 6th place finish from last year. Senior Ivy Martin, defending 50 and 100 free B1G champion, touts recent Pan Pacific Games experience and has been untouchable all season in the 50 free. The Badgers will have very dangerous 200 free and medley relays, and will certainly not go unnoticed.

This year will mark the first Big Ten Championships for recent conference addition Rutgers University, who return three swimmers from last year who each set at least one school record in 2014. Junior Joanna Wu currently holds the 100 back (52.74) and 200 back (1:54.05) Rutgers records, while junior Morgan Pfaff holds the 200 fly (1:58.02), 200 IM (1:58.46) and 400 IM (4:13.85) records and senior Greta Leberfinger set the 200 breast record (2:13.06). In addition, Wu and Leberfinger were both on the school record-setting 400 medley from last year (3:39.84).

SCHEDULE

Wednesday

200 Medley Relay

800 Free Relay

Thursday

200 Free Relay

500 Freestyle

200 Individual Medley

50 Freestyle

1-Meter Diving

Friday

400 Medley Relay

400 Individual Medley

100 Butterfly

200 Freestyle

100 Breaststroke

100 Backstroke

3-Meter Diving

Saturday

1650 Freestyle

200 Backstroke

100 Freestyle

200 Breaststroke

200 Butterfly

Platform Diving

400 Freestyle Relay

STARS

Illinois – Alison Meng (senior backstroker), Sam Stratford (freshman IM-er and breaststroker), and Gabbie Stecker (sophomore freestyler) — Meng has been a sprint free/backstroke/butterfly force for the Fighting Illini, and underclassmen Stratford and Stecker will look to build a foundation for U of I to climb up from the bottom of the conference.

Indiana – Gia Dalesandro (sophomore butterflier and IM-er), Kennedy Goss (freshman freestyler and backstroker), Brooklyn Snodgrass (junior backstroker), Jessica Parratto (RS freshman diver) — Dalesandro, Goss, and Snodgrass can each win at least one event, with Snodgrass a threat to take both backstrokes. Parratto is one of the best divers in the country, and will give them a huge points boost herself.

IowaEmma Sougstad (sophomore breaststroker), Olivia Kabacinski (junior sprinter), Becky Stoughton (senior distance freestyler), Calli Head (sophomore diver) — The Hawkeyes have talent, and Sougstad is poised to break a minute in her 100 breast and challenge Kierra Smith after her 1:00.14 performance against Iowa State in December. Head, as only a freshman, placed  4th at last year’s championships in platform diving, breaking the school record in the process.

MichiganClara Smiddy (freshman backstroker), Ali DeLoof (junior sprinter), Gillian Ryan (freshman distance freestyler), Hannah Moore (freshman distance freestyler/IMer), Emily Kopas (freshman breaststroker) — DeLoof nearly made the 2015 World Champs team in the 50 back last summer and has been the sprint rock for the Wolverines, who bring in one of the top freshman classes in the nation featuring three Junior National Teamers (Moore, Ryan, Kopas) and a National Teamer (Smiddy).

Michigan StateShelby Lacy (senior breaststroker), Chanel Bonin (freshman backstroker), Sarah Love (sophomore butterflier) — Bonin and Love bring young speed to a program that relies on the breaststroking prowess of now-senior Shelby Lacy and will fight with Illinois at the bottom of the conference.

Minnesota Kierra Smith (junior breaststroker), Kiera Janzen (senior distance freestyler), Becca Weiland (senior butterflier and sprint freestyler), Brooke Zeiger (freshman IMer), Jessica Plant (senior mid-distance freestyler), Samantha Harding (junior distance freestyler) — Again, it’s hard to only pick a few stars from this deep Minnesota team. The Gophers have a gauntlet of mid-distance freestyles, and Brooke Zeiger will bolster the IM group while freshman Danielle Nack complements Weiland nicely. Despite their losses from last year, they will be very hard to beat again this year.

NebraskaTaryn Collura (junior sprinter), Samantha Hardewig (junior breaststroker), Anna Filipcic (sophomore diver) — None of the Huskers’ stars are seniors, and Collura is the powerhouse for Nebraska’s sprint relays. Filipcic just missed championship finals in the 1 and 3 meter springboards, and will look to score big this year.

NorthwesternMary Warren (freshman sprinter), Lacey Locke (sophomore backstroker), Annika Winsnes (sophomore sprinter) — NU has a very strong underclassmen group, consisting mostly of sprinters. Warren and Winsnes both notched best-ever times in the 50 and 100 free at the TYR Invitational this year, and have been a part of impressive dual meet relays this season. Locke has been strong in the backstrokes all season, and the Wildcats have potential to jump from 10th last year to as high as 8th after they flexed their muscles in an upset dual meet win over then-ranked Iowa.

Ohio StateAshley Vance (senior breaststroker/IMer), Taylor Vargo (sophomore breaststroker), Annie Jongekrijg (junior sprinter) — Vance is the defending champion in the 200 IM, while Vargo and Jongekrijg are essential pieces of the Buckeyes’ relays.

Penn StateAlyson Ackman (junior sprinter), Carolyn Fittin (senior sprinter), Melissa Rodriguez (junior breaststroker), Megan Silverling (senior mid-distance freestyler) — The Nittany Lions are, like the Gophers, incredibly deep in the mid-distance freestyles. What Penn State has, however, is a very strong sprint group that will put together dangerous 200 and 400 free relays. Ackman won the 200 free last year, and Silverling leads a 500 free group with three swimmers under 4:50 already this year. In addition, PSU can put together two fast 800 free relays with their top 8 200 freestylers all under 1:50 this year.

Purdue Abby Jagdfeld (freshman freestyler), Rhiannon Sheets (senior mid-distance freestyler/butterflier), Emily Fogle (senior breaststroker), Kylie Vogel (senior sprinter) — Fogle, Vogel (say those two names together ten times fast), and Sheets all have plenty of experience and will lead the Boilers this year. Jagdfeld brings a ton of talent and will be an individual scoring threat as well as a relay stud for any (or all) of the five relays.

Rutgers – Morgan Pfaff (junior butterflier/IMer), Joanna Wu (junior backstroker), Greta Leberfinger (senior breaststroker) — These three set Rutgers’ records in last year, and will see what they can do in the Big Ten this year for their first conference meet in the Midwest. 

WisconsinIvy Martin (senior sprinter), Chase Kinney (sophomore sprinter), Danielle Valley (sophomore distance freestyler), Aja van Hout (senior IMer), Anna Meinholz (junior breaststroker) — Ivy Martin is the favorite in the 50 and 100 free, and Kinney will likely join her in both championship finals. The two will pair up for some killer sprint relays. The addition of Florida transfer Valley is a big boost for the top-end-heavy Badgers, as she has potential to win both the 500 and 1650 free. Will the lack of depth past their first two swimmers keep the Badgers from cracking the top 5 again this year?

SHOWDOWNS

100 BUTTERFLY 

Gia Dalesandro was last year’s runner-up and was one of only two swimmers in the conference under 52 seconds (51.75), but she will be challenged by Becca Weiland of Minnesota as well as Wisconsin’s Ivy Martin. Weiland won the event her sophomore year with a quick 51.61, but Martin has been the fastest so far this season in the Big Ten. Martin’s 52.44 from the Texas Invite reigns supreme over the B1G, and the three will go head-to-head-to-head on Friday night.

500 FREESTYLE

Last year, Kiera Janzen’s 4:36 from NCAA’s was the 2nd fastest of any Big Ten swimmer only to IU’s now-graduated Lindsay Vrooman, but she was only 4:42 at last year’s conference championship meet. Sam Harding was 4:38.06 for 2nd behind Vrooman at last year’s conference champs, and B1G newcomers, freshmen Kennedy Goss and Gillian Ryan, along with Florida transfer Danielle Valley will pack the final for what could be the most thrilling race of the meet. Ryan’s 4:37.78 is the fastest in the B1G this season, followed closely by Goss (4:38.35), although Ryan’s been a 4:36 (back in 2013). Valley’s 4:38.79 from Winter Nats in December was a lifetime best, and Minnesota freshman Brooke Zeiger also hit a lifetime best this season, a 4:39.50 from the Minnesota Grand Prix. But wait, there’s more! Haley Lips, a junior from IU, had never been under 4:41 until she dropped a 4:39.98 at this year’s Winter Nats, and Wolverine freshman Hannah Moore’s 4:40.90 from the same meet was also a lifetime best. Hold on tight for this final, folks.

200 BACKSTROKE

Brooklyn Snodgrass has been the backstroke queen of the Big Ten since she was a freshman, and has yet to lose the 100 or 200 backstroke at a conference championships. However, if anyone’s going to dethrone Snodgrass, it’s Michigan freshman Clara Smiddy. Smiddy, who made her way onto the US National Team this past summer, hasn’t been quite as fast as Snodgrass this year, but has a best time of 1:50.59, which is right off of Snodgrass’s best of 1:50.52. The two will both probably break 52 in the 100 back, but Snodgrass’s best is seven tenths ahead of Smiddy, and the closer race looks to be the 200 back. Don’t count out IU freshman Kennedy Goss either– she’s been a 1:52 this season and could make things interesting if she drops below 1:52.

200 FREESTYLE RELAY

Outside of Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan, no team has been under 1:30 this year. These three teams happen to be within four tenths of each other this year, and each team has at least one swimmer with sub-22 potential. That’d be Ali DeLoof for Michigan, who was 21.89 on their Winter National field-topping relay, Carolyn Fittin and Alyson Ackman for PSU, and Chase Kinney and Ivy Martin for the Badgers. Martin, of the defending champs Wisconsin in this relay, has been under 22 with a flat start plenty of times, which might give them the X factor this year. Nonetheless, the Wolverines and Nittany Lions will certainly be in the mix.

400 FREESTYLE RELAY

Wisconsin will have a tough time defending their title in this relay, too, as a host of teams will be gunning for it. Michigan won the event at Winter Nats in 3:17.13 over Indiana (3:17.38), although Wisconsin’s 3:17.04 from the Texas Invite is the fastest time in the NCAA so far. Penn State has also been just under 3:18, and they return their entire relay from last year. That’s Alyson Ackman, Carolyn Fittin, Katelyn Miller, and Caitlyn Karr. Good luck keeping those four names separate from each other. Again, nobody (maybe Ackman, if she isn’t leading off) is touching Martin’s almost certain sub-48 (possibly sub-47??) split this year, which again gives Wisconsin the edge.

STANDINGS

Minnesota, although lacking depth in backstroke and sprint free, has far too many scorers in other events to not be considered favorites for what would be their fourth straight conference title. Led by Kierra Smith, the favorite to win both breaststrokes, a host of mid-distance freestylers, and star freshmen Brooke Zeiger and Danielle Nack, the Golden Gophers are set up for another championship in 2015.

However, it may not be as big a win as it was last year, when Minnesota beat 2nd place Indiana by almost 100 points. Michigan has an incredible freshman class, with Smiddy, Moore, Ryan, and Kopas all legitimate, potential A finalists or even event-winners. Ali Deloof leads a strong junior class for the Wolverines, who should easily move up from 5th place last year to challenge Indiana for 2nd. Indiana’s biggest crutch is the breaststroke, where they will fall significantly in the medley relays with the loss of now-graduated Bronwyn Pasloski, as well as lose her individual points. Redshirt freshman diver Jessica Parratto is one of the best platform divers in the country, and she should help get back some of those points lost, along with fellow freshman Kennedy Goss.

Wisconsin, who was only 6th last year, will battle with Penn State and host Ohio State for spots after the preceding three. The Badgers have Ivy Martin, a sprinting force on the national level, and have enough top-end talent to put together title-contending relays. Penn State has quite the freestyle arsenal, but don’t have any clear replacement for now-graduated Mackenzie Powers, who won the 100 fly last year and was 2nd in the 100 back. OSU returns 200 IM champion Ashley Vance, and they, too, have relay power. Purdue will not be far behind these teams, and with the addition of freshman Abby Jagdfeld, they might be able to push ahead of a team like OSU.

Now that Rutgers has joined the Big Ten, we’ll see a good fight between them, NU, and Iowa. The Scarlet Knights have a very good backstroker in Joanna Wu, who set program records in the 100 and 200 last year. Butterflier/IMer Morgan Pfaff set program marks in the 200 and 400 IM as well as the 200 fly, as did Greta Leberfinger in the 200 breast, and they return all three of these swimmers. Iowa’s secret weapon is Emma Sougstad, who is the dark horse to win the 100 breast in upset-fashion, but a Northwestern team bolstered most by its underclassmen upset Iowa in a dual meet at Iowa in January.

Nebraska is the best bet to come out on top between them, Illinois, and Michigan State. The Illini and Spartans have individual scorers in Alison Meng and Shelby Lacy, respectively, but Taryn Collura should get it done for the Huskers on the relays. Nebraska also has diver Anna Filipcic, who will likely place top-8 in both springboard events.

1. Minnesota

2. Michigan

3. Indiana

4. Wisconsin

5. Penn State

6. Ohio State

7. Purdue

8. Iowa

9. Northwestern

10. Rutgers

11. Nebraska

12. Michigan State

13. Illinois

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SUNY Cal

Think Purdue will be higher than 7th with all their top divers getting points!!

John Paul

Is their a Psych sheet for this meet yet?

marley09
Janeam

Do you know where the love results are for big tens??

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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