2018 W B1G Champs Fan Guide: Wolverines With Eyes on Third Straight Title


  • When: Wednesday, February 14th to Saturday, February 17th | Prelims 11am | Finals 6:30pm
  • Where: McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion, Columbus, OH (Eastern Time Zone)
  • Defending Champion: Michigan Wolverines
  • Live Results
  • Streaming: Big Ten Network
  • Championship Central: here

Possession of the Big Ten conference has been wrestled out of Minnesota’s hands, and it’s the Michigan Wolverines who are the favorites after winning the last two conference championships.

It’s hard to see a scenario where Michigan don’t win this meet– the biggest competition would be Indiana, but Michigan’s freestyle depth from the 50 to the mile is absolutely unmatched in the conference, and IU’s sprint free is still a weakness for them. Freestyle depth is key, as most legs out of the five relays are freestyle, and freestyle makes up 5 of the 13 individual swimming events.

Siobhan Haughey is at the core of the massive freestyle group, along with the Deloof sisters Catie and Gabby, distance specialists G RyanSierra Schmidt and Rose Bi, and a host of others who fit in somewhere along the distance spectrum. Haughey has been out with an unnamed injury recently, but even without her, Michigan has enough sprint free power in place that her absence won’t spell disaster at Big Tens.

Michigan’s backstroke group, in addition to Clara Smiddy, is now boosted by Arizona transfer Taylor Garcia, who could also slot in on sprint free relays. Emily Kopas and Miranda Tucker head the breaststroke contingent, and while the fly group is still lacking in depth and pure sprint speed, Vanessa Krause and freshmen Alexis Margett and Emma Cleason should make a sizable impact, though more so in the 200 fly than the 100.

Indiana is jam-packed with talent, though, and their roster features none other than world record holder Lilly King. In addition to being the absolute favorite in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes, King is a big reason why the IU 200 medley is a good two and a half seconds ahead of Michigan, the next-best team in the conference in that relay. Kennedy Goss is a big-time freestyle/backstroke returner for IU, while freshman sprinter Grace Haskett leads the conference in the 50 free.

There are plenty more big names to watch out for, including, but certainly not limited to, Minnesota’s Mackenzie Padington and Lindsey Kozelsky, Ohio State’s Liz Li, Penn State’s Ally McHugh, and Purdue’s Kaersten Meitz.



200 Medley Relay
800 Free Relay


200 Free Relay
500 Freestyle
200 Individual Medley
50 Freestyle
1-Meter Diving


400 Medley Relay
400 Individual Medley
100 Butterfly
200 Freestyle
100 Breaststroke
100 Backstroke
3-Meter Diving


1650 Freestyle
200 Backstroke
100 Freestyle
200 Breaststroke
200 Butterfly
Platform Diving
400 Freestyle Relay


Illinois – Sam Stratford (senior IMer) — Stratford has been a dependable leader for the Illini these last few years, and she’ll be a scoring option in the IM’s at Big Tens.

Indiana –  Christine Jensen (junior butterflier), Ali Rockett (senior sprint freestyler/backstroker), Kennedy Goss (senior freestyler and backstroker), Lilly King (junior breaststroker), Grace Haskett (freshman sprinter) — It doesn’t hurt to have the 100m breast World Record holder on your roster, and with Christine Jensen’s improvements, the IU medley relays will be insanely good. Goss is a returning mid-distance specialist with a ton of experience, and freshman Haskett leads the Big Ten in the 50 free. Moreover, with the sprint-oriented coaching staff in Bloomington, Haskett could be the first in a new generation of great IU sprinters on the women’s side.

Iowa – Hannah Burvill (sophomore freestyler), Kelsey Drake (freshman sprinter), Meghan Lavelle (senior backstroker) — Burvill is a great 100/200 freestyler and is also Iowa’s fastest 100 backstroker this season. The freshman Drake is a solid butterfly presence who could make some noise in the 200 IM as well.

MichiganClara Smiddy (senior backstroker)Vanessa Krause (sophomore butterflier), G Ryan (senior distance freestyler), Siobhan Haughey (junior freestyler/IMer), Rose Bi (junior distance freestyler), Miranda Tucker (sophomore breaststroker), Sierra Schmidt (freshman distance) — There’s a fantastic freestyler for every race on this team, and the Deloof sisters aren’t even mentioned yet. This is such a complete team, and transfers Tucker and Taylor Garcia make them all the deeper.

Michigan State  – Ana Sortland (junior breaststroker), Racheal Bukowski (senior sprint freestyler) — Bukowski could pop up in an A final in one of the sprint free events. Sortland broke 1:02 in the 100 breast for the first time ever in November, then went past 1:01 for a 1:00.72 at Winter Nationals, leaving her 9th in the conference this year.

Minnesota – Mackenzie Padington (freshman freestyler), Tevyn Waddell (sophomore backstroker), Lindsey Kozelsky (sophomore breaststroker), Danielle Nack (senior butterflier), Zoe Avestruz (junior sprinter) — Danielle Nack leads the conference in the 100 fly, while Padington is third in the 200 and 500 frees. Padington will help flesh out the free relays, and Waddell and Kozelsky will look to improve upon their strong freshman seasons.

Nebraska – Autumn Haebig (freshman mid-distance freestyler/backstroker), Jordan Ehly (senior breaststroker), Tori Beeler (sophomore breaststroker), Gwen Worlton (sophomore breaststroker) — The 200 breaststroke group is stacked– Ehly, Beeler, and Worlton all rank in the Big Ten’s top 12 this year, with Ehly up at 7th. Freshman Haebig could develop into a big-time star for the Huskers, and she has an outside shot at a 500 free A final appearance at Big Tens.

Northwestern – Mary Warren (senior sprinter), Calypso Sheridan (freshman everything) — Warren is a dependable sprinter, while Aussie freshman Sheridan could come through as a huge contributer for the Wildcats.

Ohio State – Liz Li (senior sprinter), Meg Bailey (senior distance/IM), Freya Rayner (freshman sprinter), Kristen Romano (freshman everything) — Bailey and Li are title contenders individually in multiple events. Rayner is a very strong #2 sprinter for the Buckeyes, and Romano is ranked highly in the backstrokes, IMs, and mid-distance freestyles.

Penn State – Ally McHugh (junior distance), Niki Price (senior sprinter), Tommie Dillione (senior sprinter) — Ally McHugh is one of the fastest-rising distance specialists in the country right now. There are some more freestyle pieces here, and Niki Price is ranked 13th with a personal best 1:59.11 in the 200 IM.

Purdue – Taite Kitchel (junior butterflier), Jinq En Phee (sophomore breaststroker), Kaersten Meitz (senior distance freestyler) — Meitz could be the distance swimmer to beat, even considering Michigan’s gauntlet of milers. En Phee has continued to improve in the sprint breaststroke, and Kitchel has vaulted to third in the conference in the 200 fly.

Rutgers  – Vera Koprikova (junior backstroker), Francesca Stoppa (junior butterflier) — Koprikova and Stoppa are great in their 200s; Koprikova in the back, Stoppa in fly.

Wisconsin – Beata Nelson (sophomore sprinter), Abby Jagdfeld (senior freestyler), Jessica Unicomb (junior backstroker), Emmy Sehmann (junior sprinter) — Nelson has bounced back from a lackluster freshman season and is now a potential national title contender in… the backstrokes. Scale it down to the conference level, and she’s honed her IM skills enough to be a threat in the 200 IM, and of course, the 100 fly. Emmy Sehmann has emerged as a strong sprint presence, and Jagdfeld and Unicomb are two individual scorers that should make multiple A final appearances.


500 & 1650 FREE

The distance matchups this year will be big, big races. The Michigan crew will send Sierra SchmidtG RyanRose Bi and Becca Postoll into battle, and it wouldn’t be out of the question for Michigan to take more than just the top spot in either of these races. It won’t be an easy task, though, and there’s just as good of a chance that Michigan goes winless in both races. Kaersten Meitz has rising stock after a fantastic summer, and the senior will want to cap off her Purdue career on top. Penn State’s Ally McHugh, like Meitz, had an incredible summer and could be right with the lead pack in both races, though the mile is her stronger race.

Mackenzie Padington of Minnesota is a new face for the 500 free, while Cassy Jernberg has improved at IU and will be a player especially in the mile. Jernberg’s teammate Kennedy Goss will be a force in the 500, too.

200 BACK

Michigan’s Clara Smiddy and Indiana’s Kennedy Goss went head-to-head in this race last year at Big Tens, with Goss getting her hand to the wall first, 1:50.95 to 1:51.39. This year, Smiddy leads the Big Ten with a 1:51.03, but Beata Nelson has looked fantastic all year, and her 1:51.21 ranks 2nd in the conference. Goss is ranked 4th in the conference, and Kristen Romano of Ohio State sits 3rd. Romano has already improved significantly in her freshman season, so she’s a wild card and could have more unexpected drops at Big Tens.

Gabby Deloof will probably swim the 100 free rather than the 200 back at Big Tens, since she’s ranked 2nd there, but she could still do the 200 back seeing as Michigan has less depth there. If she does swim the 200 back, it would be hard to count her out entirely– she could have an outside shot at stealing the title here.

100 FLY

Danielle Nack is the in-season leader with a 51.79, just ahead of Beata Nelson (51.82) and Christine Jensen (51.87). No other swimmer has been under 52.8 in the conference. Nelson and Jensen are having exceptional seasons, and Nack is already significantly faster than the 52.68 she went at Big Tens last year. Liz Li of OSU was 50.90 to claim 2nd last year, but after her fall semester in China, she hasn’t had many swims under her belt in yards, leaving her more of a question mark. With the rising stock of Nack, Nelson, and Jensen, and Li’s questionability, things get very tight. Michigan’s Vanessa Krause was 52.22 at Big Tens last year, and should be in the mix, too.


Last year, Wisconsin was able to knock off Ohio State, 1:27.90 to 1:27.99. A couple things have changed since then, but the race should be very close again.

For Wisconsin, top sprinter Chase Kinney graduated, though Emmy Sehmann has evolved into their top sprinter, and Beata Nelson has had a remarkable season. Nelson wasn’t on either sprint free relay at Big Tens last year, but with the year she’s having, it wouldn’t be surprising if she threw down a sub-22 leg for this relay.

Ohio State has Liz Li still, but it’s unclear how fast she’ll be able to go. She should be able to pull off a sub-22 lead-off, though, and freshman Freya Rayner makes things favorable for OSU as the #2 50 freestyler this year.

Michigan can’t be forgotten, and with transfer Taylor Garcia and freshman Daria Pyshnenko in the mix, they might have enough to give their anchor a fighting chance at knocking off Wisconsin or OSU. It’s OSU’s race to lose, though.


Michigan has the top end speed and the depth to make them pretty untouchable this year. It doesn’t look like they have any serious upset contenders, but Indiana is the safe pick for 2nd. After a close meet last year, Michigan should have a larger margin of victory this year after their impact freshmen and transfers figure in, and considering that IU lost more than Michigan did to graduations.

Minnesota looks to be the deeper team than Wisconsin, and the Badgers have to find a way to deal with losing Cierra Runge and lacking a high-impact freshman class. Ohio State figures in with both teams in the 2nd tier behind Michigan and Indiana, and with their freshman class and Li returning, they have the edge over Wisconsin, too.

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

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MI takes this easily, even without a taper or Haughey!! Just to much depth in several events.


Rutgers also has midseason addition Sveva Schiazzano who was a European Jr. Champion and should add some points. Her best 1500m time converted puts her at 16:06 for the 1650 which would have been 8th at last year’s meet.


Do these predicted rankings take diving into account? Including diving should bump up Northwestern (who has the defending platform national champion) and Rutgers (who had three NCAA qualifiers with 2 returning) a bit.

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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