2017 B1G Women’s Champs Fan Guide: Michigan Hungry for a Repeat

2017 B1G WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS

  • When: Wednesday, February 15th to Saturday, February 18th | Prelims 11am | Finals 6:30pm
  • Where: Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN (Eastern Time Zone)
  • Defending Champion: Michigan Wolverines
  • Live Results
  • Streaming: Big Ten Network
  • Championship Central: here

Last year marked a power shift atop the Big Ten, as both Michigan and Indiana toppled Minnesota, denying the Gophers a fifth-straight conference title. With how this season has looked, Michigan has tightened its grip on the rest of the conference, and now that they’ve added depth to top-end talent, they look pretty unbeatable in 2017. Freshman Vanessa Krause finally gives them a pure butterfly talent with which to stock the medley relays, and the sprinting capabilities of the Deloof sisters Catie and Gabby give surefire speed to complement Wolverine star sophomore Siobhan Haughey. Additionally, having G Ryan and Rose Bi in the distance frees will bring in loads of points in multiple races.

Indiana and Minnesota both got talent back from redshirt years, though Gopher Kierra Smith has looked far more valuable this season than IU’s Brooklyn Snodgrass. While Minnesota dropped to third last year, their freshmen class and Smith’s return have them trending up on an IU team that hasn’t been quite as impressive as last year. One thing is for sure: the two teams will have thrilling breaststroke battles with defending Olympic Champion Lilly King being pitted against the Minnesota duo Smith and freshman Lindsay Horejsi.

Wisconsin, which finished sixth last season, is finally picking up the depth it needs to put up a worthy challenge against Purdue and Ohio State. Cierra Runge is the primo addition this season, having transferred from Cal and taken a year to focus on the 2016 Olympics. The distance stalwart will be in contention for B1G titles in the 200, 500, and 1650 free, while her presence will be felt on at least the 800 free relay. The Badgers also picked up Abby Jagdfeld, a strong mid-distance freestyler from Purdue, and a stroke-heavy freshman class led by 51.0 flyer Beata Nelson gives them a very impressive spread of talent to work with. While Nelson hasn’t shown what she’s truly capable of this season, you can bank on the Badgers picking up a lot of steam on Purdue and OSU teams that both graduated a lot of talent.

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 – Sam Stratford (junior IMer) and Gabbie Stecker (senior everything) — Sam Stratford is a bright point for Illinois, as she comes into the Big Ten Champs ranked fifth in the 200 IM.

Indiana – Gia Dalesandro (senior butterflier and IM-er), Ali Rockett (junior sprint freestyler/backstroker)  Kennedy Goss (junior freestyler and backstroker),  Lilly King (sophomore breaststroker) — King is the best  breaststroker in the conference, and the Hoosiers have returners who will be popping up in A finals all over the place.

Iowa Emma Sougstad (senior breaststroker), Hannah Burvill (freshman freestyler) Mekenna Scheitlin (junior sprinter), Meghan Lavelle (junior backstroker) — Sougstad returns as one of the Big Ten‘s premier breaststroke talents, while British freshman Burvill gives Iowa a strong sprint free presence that will also boost their relays.

MichiganClara Smiddy (junior backstroker)Vanessa Krause (freshman butterflier)G Ryan (junior distance freestyler), Siobhan Haughey (sophomore freestyler/IMer), Rose Bi (sophomore distance freestyler) — Ryan and Bi are a distance duo that’s tough to crack. The DeLoof sisters (Catie and Gabby) are right behind Haughey to make a formidable sprint group, while freshman Krause has finally offered an answer to the Wolverine’s butterfly question. This is a dominant team.

Michigan StateCathryn Armstrong (sophomore backstroker), Maddie Nowak (junior backstroker), Racheal Bukowski (junior sprint freestyler) — Bukowski has exploded with best times this year. In the 50 free, she’s posted the 4th-ranked time in the Big Ten thus far in the season.

Minnesota – Brooke Zeiger (junior IMer), Tevyn Waddell (freshman backstroker), Lindsey Horejsi (freshman breaststroker), Danielle Nack (junior butterflier), Kierra Smith (senior breaststroker), Yu Zhou (junior diver) — With Miranda Tucker out for the season, Minnesota has the deepest breaststroke group in the conference now that Kierra Smith is back. Freshmen Horejsi and Waddell are huge pickups for the Gophers, while Zeiger looks capable of snagging the 400 IM conference title.

NebraskaErin Oeltjen (senior backstroker), Jordan Ehly (junior breaststroker), Tori Beeler (freshman breaststroker) — Ehly and freshman Beeler are two breaststroke weapons, while Oeltjen’s impressive backstroke this season will bode well for the medleys.

NorthwesternMary Warren (junior sprinter), Valerie Gruest Slowing (freshman distance freestyler), Annika Winsnes (senior sprinter) — Freshman Gruest Slowing gives NU a serious scorer in multiple events, and the Wildcats have another year of strong sprinters which will make for solid relays.

Ohio StateLiz Li (junior sprinter), Lindsey Clary (senior distance/IM), Taylor Vargo (senior breaststroker) — Liz Li is a force to be reckoned with, and she’ll be the rock of the OSU sprint relays. Clary and Vargo will amass big points; both are capable of being triple A-finalists at Big Tens.

Penn StateSienna Salvaggio (freshman sprinter), Kaitlin Saloky (senior sprinter), Katelyn Sowinski (senior sprinter), Casey Francis (senior distance freestyler) — The Nittany Lions lost big points to graduation or transfers, but they still have sprint free power, which is key in scoring in the NCAA format. Francis is a strong distance freestyler who should bring in points in the 500 and mile.

Purdue – Jacklyn Smailis (sophomore sprinter), Jinq En Phee (freshman breaststroker), Kaersten Meitz (junior distance freestyler) — Solid team make-up, with Malaysian record holder Jinq En Phee looking to shake things up in the sprint breaststroke this year.

Rutgers  – Rachel Stoddard (senior breaststroker), Vera Koprikova (sophomore backstroker), Francesca Stoppa (sophomore butterflier) — While a little sparse in the sprint free cupboards, Rutgers has a star in the three other strokes. Koprikova, for one, is ranked third in the B1G in the 200 back.

WisconsinChase Kinney (senior sprinter), Beata Nelson (freshman sprinter), Cierra Runge (sophomore distance freestyler), Jessica Unicomb (sophomore backstroker) — Kinney is one of the best sprint freestylers in the conference, while Runge takes care of things from the 200 free and up through the mile. Freshman Nelson has been nowhere near her best times, but that might be her in-season style– if she’s at full power at B1Gs, Wisconsin’s stock will go way up.

SHOWDOWNS

  • 100 AND 200 BREASTSTROKE – The IU-Minn war will be most intense in the breaststroke races. Lindsay Horejsi exploded her senior year of high school, and could drop even more time now that she’s training with the Gophers. One trick up her sleeve is the fact that she wasn’t at Rio– Kierra Smith and Lilly King were both competing at the 2016 Olympics, and often times it’s difficult to seamlessly dive back into the pool for the NCAA season (see Santo Condorelli’s times from recent USC meets). Horejsi is far better in the 100 breast, though the 100 really should belong to the defending Olympic Champ, King. The 200, meanwhile, will be an incredible dogfight between King and Smith– the 2016 and 2015 NCAA Champs, respectively.
  • 100 FREESTYLE – Last year, Michigan’s Siobhan Haughey pulled a Nathan Adrian, winning the 100 free by just one hundredth of a second. The Wolverine made her move on the last length, coming from behind to edge ahead of OSU’s Liz Li by the smallest of margins (well, the smallest margins recognized in the sport). The two are only separated by four hundredths this season, with Haughey ahead 48.16 to Li’s 48.20, and another nail biter should ensue between the conference’s sprint titans.
  • 200 FREESTYLE – Haughey will have to fight tooth and nail in this event, too, as she’ll tangle with Wisconsin’s Cierra Runge. While she broke out onto the scene as a distance swimmer, Runge has shored up her sprintier side so well that she landed a spot on the U.S. Olympic team this summer in the 4×200 free relay. She’s nearly broken 1:43 this season, while Haughey has been just a few hundredths under that mark. Nobody has been much closer than two seconds behind the pair, and this race will act, in part, as a preview for the exciting race that’ll take place in this event at NCAAs.
  • 200 FREE RELAY – This is a Wisconsin vs. Michigan showdown– Indiana and Minnesota don’t have the sprint depth to keep up, and Liz Li won’t have the same support as she did last year for Ohio State because of some sprint graduations. Michigan’s Haughey and the Deloof sisters make up three very quick legs, but there’s no fourth leg to match. Wisconsin, meanwhile, has its hammer leg in Chase Kinney, while Emmy Sehmann and Marissa Berg provide two solid legs as well. They went with backstroker Unicomb to anchor their relay at their midseason suited meet, but that might not be enough to topple Michigan. It has to be in the Badgers’ favor, though, if Beata Nelson can replicate, or get near, the 22.08 lifetime best she swam last spring.

SELECTIONS

This conference belong to Michigan, which has gained strength since last season. They have massive presence in freestyle, through the sprints, mid-distance, and distance. They’ve fixed their butterfly hole, and while their strokes aren’t the deepest in the conference (especially the breaststroke), they’re in control this year.

The team race between Minnesota and Indiana, however, is incredibly difficult to call. The Hoosiers lost Haley Lips, a huge scorer, along with diver Lacey Houser. Minnesota lost contributors Lauren Votava and Sam Harding, along with diver Jessica Ramberg. Both teams have a star back from redshirt, though Snodgrass has not looked up to form while Smith is in good shape for the Gophers, who also have a more impressive freshman class led by Horejsi. All that said, it doesn’t look like a safe bet to call the Gophers making up 280 points on the Hoosiers (that’s the margin between the two teams last year, as IU finished at 2nd with 1207.5 to Minn’s 927.5). Minnesota definitely looks stronger this year than last, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they made up a lot of ground, but it seems that IU has just a slight edge, if that.

Wisconsin has added a lot of depth this year, and their top-end talent is really good. Ohio State lost significant sprint free power and didn’t bring much in with their freshmen, while Purdue will hurt after graduating Allie Davis and Emily Fogle, two big-time individual scorers. The Badgers could be big movers this year after finishing 6th last season, and the same goes for Iowa. The Hawkeyes ended their season in 11th last year, but the bottom of the conference is very tightly packed. Iowa will get big points from breaststroker Emma Sougstad, and their sprint flyers will capitalize on the Big Ten being generally weak in the butterfly races. On top of that, freshman Hannah Burvill gives them a solid individual sprint free scorer who will bring up their free relays considerably from last year. Expect Northwestern to keep it close, though, especially considering the addition of freshman distance star Valerie Gruest Slowing.

  1. Michigan
  2. Indiana
  3. Minnesota
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Ohio State
  6. Purdue
  7. Penn State
  8. Iowa
  9. Northwestern
  10. Nebraska
  11. Rutgers
  12. Michigan State
  13. Illinois

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Confused

Indinia will get 2nd and 3rd?

Mama G

Can you please use a different color for Iowa? It’s unreadable. Thanks!

panda

Where is Minnesota on the predictions? IU was entered twice, perhaps a typo?

Marley09

I think author had second thoughts. Picked IU ahead of Minnesota but it just didn’t feel right so dropped them to 3rd. #gophers

Ono

Troll much

Confused

So this comment and mine were voted down after the author had a major typo and the only response from him was to argue that Wisconsin hasn’t been 4th at Big Tens since 2005 (which was actually 2004, though they were 2nd in 2003)? I’m still confused 🙂

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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