2021 Women’s B1G Fan Guide: Ohio State Facing a Deeper Michigan Team This Year

2021 B1G WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS

Ohio State’s depth took them to their first Big Ten title since 1986 last season, but Michigan is deeper than they were in 2020. The Buckeyes have another incredible sprint free group, which is key, though they’ll hurt from losing their top backstroker, Rebekah Bradley, and distance stalwarts Molly Kowal and Kathrin Demler.

Michigan has the best swimmer in the conference in Maggie MacNeil, who will be impossible to beat this year (unless she swims the 100 back). Their freshman class has a ton of potential; if their rookies show up at this meet, it could be tough for Ohio State to match.

A two-week break from training in early-February could impact the Wolverines, though if anything it seems like that could lead to ‘more rest’ for these championships for some swimmers than would have been otherwise intended. And there is, of course, national skepticism as to how long the individual athletes were actually out of the water, even if official team training was suspended.

Meanwhile, Northwestern and Wisconsin are two teams on the rise. NU jumped from seventh to fourth last season, and they’re poised to rise further to the #3 slot. Wisconsin, powered by freshman star Phoebe Bacon, could unseat Indiana and nab fourth. Bacon is the favorite in both backstrokes and the 200 IM, though MacNeil’s event lineup could see the two meet in the 100 back, which would be an incredible battle. Despite losing Beata Nelson, Bacon and the Badger freshmen look to make them even better than last year.

IU still has a solid core, anchored by Emily Weiss and Noelle Peplowski, while freshmen Elizabeth Broshears and diver Anne Fowler have stepped up this season. Minnesota looks more sure of itself this season, their roster bolstered by some freshmen sprint additions like Indy Jongman and Pyper Doo, while Purdue will try to outlast Penn State with their diving group.

This looks to be Michigan State’s final season, and up until very recently, it looked like a similar fate for Iowa. But, after a lawsuit and back-and-forths between students, alumni and the administration, the Iowa women’s team was reinstated (the men’s was not).

SCHEDULE

Tuesday

200 Medley Relay
800 Free Relay

Wednesday

200 Individual Medley
50 Freestyle
500 Freestyle

400 Medley Relay

Thursday

100 Butterfly
400 Individual Medley
200 Freestyle

Friday

100 Breaststroke
100 Backstroke
200 Butterfly

200 Freestyle Relay

Saturday

100 Freestyle
1650 Freestyle (timed finals)
200 Backstroke
200 Breaststroke

400 Freestyle Relay

STARS

Illinois- Abby Cabush (junior sprinter), Cara Bognar (freshman distance specialist) – Abby Cabush was a rocket at Illinois’ last dual meet of the season, blasting a school record in the 200 free (1:47.90) for her first swim under 1:49 ever. Meanwhile, freshman Cara Bognar leads the team in the 500 free, 200 fly and 400 IM, and she’s gone lifetime bests in the 200 free and 500 free already this season. At 2:00 in the 200 fly and 4:19 in the 400 IM, she’s also a likely scorer in both events.

Indiana – Emily Weiss (sophomore breaststroker), Noelle Peplowski (sophomore breaststroker/IMer), Mac Looze (junior IMer), Josie Grote (senior distance), Ashley Turak (sophomore sprinter), Anne Fowler (freshman diver) — Weiss and Peplowski are one of the strongest 1-2 punches in breaststroke nationally, and IU has a dependable stable of IMers. Fowler, meanwhile, is a great freshman diving addition who easily beat Ohio State’s Mackenzie Crawford, the reigning 1-meter Big Ten Champion, in IU’s dual meet with them.

Iowa – Alyssa Graves (freshman distance specialist), Kelsey Drake (senior sprinter), Mallory Jump (sophomore multi) — It’s the final season for the Hawkeyes, or at least it was until mid-February. Freshman Alyssa Graves has already been impressive this truncated season in the distance free and 200 fly. Drake should be in the hunt for A-final appearances in both butterfly events, while Purdue transfer Jump leads the team this year in the 100 breast (1:02.14) and 100 fly (53.05), both lifetime bests.

Michigan – Maggie MacNeil (junior sprinter), Olivia Carter (junior butterflier, Kaitlynn Sims (sophomore distance freestyler), Sierra Schmidt (senior distance freestyler), Kathryn Ackerman (freshman multi), Allie Klein (junior diver), Nikki Canale (senior diver), Daria Pyshnenko (senior sprinter) — The core of this Michigan team is scarily talented, headed by the 2019 World Champion in the 100 fly, Maggie Macneil. She’s light years ahead of the rest of the conference in sprint free and fly. Sims and Schmidt, meanwhile, are expected to go 1-2 in the 500 free and 1650 free; they’re the top returners from last season. Carter is another triple A-finalist, while Pyshnenko is a fantastic sprinter behind Macneil; the freshman class could be the deciding factor for Michigan’s title hopes, though. Kathryn Ackerman has already broken a school record in the 400 IM (4:05.58) by two seconds, and the Wolverine rookies are very deep, with concentrations in the sprint free, back and breast.

Michigan State – Erin Szara (senior breaststroker), Abby Neveling (senior multi) — Breaststroker Erin Szara is the star swimmer for Michigan State, a program on its last legs this season. Szara was a B-finalist in the 100 breast last year, though she showed a lot more speed with a 59.5 split on Michigan’s 400 medley relay.

Minnesota – Jordan McGinty (sophomore freestyler), Emily Cook (senior backstroker), Sarah Bacon (senior diver), Indy Jongman (freshman sprinter), Emma Lezer (sophomore breaststroker) — The Gophers are looking a bit deeper this year, and Dutch freshman Indy Jongman has been big, already at 22.9/49.7/1:49.3 this season in the sprint free. Emily Cook should get into the A-final in the 100 back again. Lezer, meanwhile, is filling in the gap left behind by recent grad Lindsey Kozelsky; she’s already been 1:00.35 in the 100 breast this season. Bacon, meanwhile, is back after an Olympic redshirt season after winning the 1-meter at 2019 NCAAs and 2019 Big Tens.

Nebraska – Autumn Haebig (senior freestyler/backstroker), Madison Coughlen (senior butterflier/IM’er), Ella Stein (freshman breaststroker) — Haebig threw down a 1:46.6/4:48 combo in mid-distance free at Nebraska’s dual with Purdue and Minnesota, and she’s looking like an A-finalist in both of those races at Big Tens. Coughlin returns after making the 200 fly A-final and 400 IM B-final at the meet last year, while freshman Stein is a nice breaststroke addition, already at 1:03.2/2:17 this season.

Northwestern – Maddie Smith (senior sprinter), Sophie Angus (junior breaststroker), Ally Larson (sophomore multi), Miriam Guevara (junior butterflier), Hannah Brunzell (freshman breaststroker), Emma Lepisova (freshman breaststroker), Selen Ozbilen (freshman sprinter), Markie Hopkins (sophomore diver)  — 2020 Big Tens was Northwestern’s coming out party, as they jumped from seventh in 2019 to fourth in 2020. Their breaststroke group, led by Sophie Angus and Hannah Brunzell, is dynamite, while A-finalists Guevara, Larson and Lepisova are back, too. Senior Maddie Smith is going lifetime bests in dual meets as a senior, and freshman Selen Ozbilen is a key sprint addition; the Turkish standout has been 25.4/55.3 in LCM, which suggests she has more to drop from her season bests 22.5/49.2. Hopkins, meanwhile, is the reigning platform B1G champion.

Ohio State – Hannah Bach (sophomore breaststroker), Amy Fulmer (sophomore sprinter), Freya Rayner (senior sprinter), Kristen Romano (senior multi), Katie Trace (senior multi), Taylor Petrak (senior sprinter), Emily Crane (freshman sprinter), Kit Kat Zenick (freshman sprinter) — Ohio State looks just about as deep as they were last year, with likely scoring freshmen Emily Crane and Kit Kat Zenick helping close the points gap left by outgoing distance stars Molly Kowal and Kathrin Demler. This team has so many exciting sprinters, including Amy Fulmer, who broke out in her freshman Big Tens with an A-final appearance in the 100 free and 21.7/47.9 splits on OSU’s title-winning free relays.     

Penn State – Maddie Cooke (senior multi), Marie Schobel (junior backstroker), Madison Ledwith (junior butterflier), Brooke Matthias (junior butterflier) – Cooke and Ledwith are returning A-finalists, and Cooke is a versatile sprinter: she’s been 22.4 in the 50 free and 1:00.1 in breast, the latter coming this season. After winning B-finals in both backstroke events last year at this meet, Schobel is due for an upgrade to A-final status, while Matthias was a B-finalist in both butterfly events looking to vault into championship finals.

Purdue – Riley Kishman (senior breaststroker), Masy Folcik (freshman breaststroker), Emily Bretscher (junior diver), Kate Beavon (sophomore distance specialist) —  Bretscher is the defending 3-meter champion, and she’s back after scoring top eight in the other two diving events. Meanwhile, Kishman and Folcik have both hit 1:01s in the 100 breast.

Rutgers — There may be only a few swimmers representing Rutgers at Big Tens, if any, which is because the program is redshirting the majority of its roster.

Wisconsin – Phoebe Bacon (freshman backstroker/IMer), Lillie Hosack (junior multi), Alana Palmer (junior sprinter), Mara Newman (junior backstroker), Kaylyn Schoof (freshman butterflier/backstroker), Tereza Vithoulkas (junior diver) — Out with one elite backstroker/IMer, in with another. Phoebe Bacon comes right in as the Badgers just graduated NCAA champion and American record-holder Beata Nelson, and she’s the 200 back heavy favorite. She’ll meet Michigan’s Macneil in the 100 back (unless Macneil goes for the 50 free/100 fly/100 free set-up), but is pretty much a lock for three A-finals and a probably triple conference champ. Hosack is a huge returner for the Badgers, too, with three A-finals likely. Kaylyn Schoof is another exciting addition in a big freshman class, and she’s looking like an A-finalist in any back or fly event.

SHOWDOWNS

100 BACKSTROKE

After her breakout 58.6 in the 100 back in long course meters a little over a year ago, it feels like Phoebe Bacon has a good amount to drop from her 50.70 lifetime best, also from December 2019. Further, this will be a huge showdown if Maggie MacNeil swims it; she did her freshman year, at 2019 Big Tens, taking second behind Beata Nelson.

MacNeil dropped a lifetime best 50.04 leading off Michigan’s 400 medley relay at 2020 Big Tens, but she opted for the 50 free/100 fly/100 free schedule at that meet instead of doing the 100 fly/100 back double.

Whether or not MacNeil swims it, this will be a new-look 100 back field. Nelson is graduated, and the vast majority of the 2020 A- and B-finalists will not be racing; whether it be due to graduation, transfer or attrition, five other A-finalists, not including Nelson, and four B-finalists will not return this championship season.

The only returners from the 2020 A-final are Northwestern sophomore Emma Lepisova (52.16) and Minnesota senior Emily Cook (53.16). Looking to move up from the B-final last year are Penn State junior Marie Schobel (52.96), Northwestern junior Miriam Guevara (53.20) and Ohio State sophomore Amy Fulmer (53.40). Wisconsin should make a charge here, though, as freshman Kaylyn Schoof (53.72) and senior Mara Newman (53.98) are also seeded in the top-eight heading into the meet.

100 BREASTSTROKE

Emily Weiss, the Indiana sophomore and top returner from last year (58.78), is the favorite to win the 100 this time around.

The field is deep this year, though, and three of the top four spots this season belong to the Northwestern Wildcats. Senior Sophie Angus has already hit a lifetime best and school record 58.92, while sophomore Hannah Brunzell (59.46) and junior Tara Vovk sit second and fourth in the conference, with Penn State senior Madeleine Cooke sandwiched in-between at third.

Meanwhile, A-finalists Noelle Peplowski of Indiana and Hannah Bach Hanna Gresser of Ohio State are all returners. Peplowski was fourth in 2020 (58.96), and Bach & Gresser touched seventh and eighth, respectively. Bach, in particular, could actually win this thing; she was 58.76 in prelims to lead the field in 2020, using absurd early speed to split 26.8 half-way and then come home in a 31-high. She was 26.8 again going out in the final, but the wheels spun off with a 33.4 back-half.

All-in-all, you have four women who have been under 59 seconds, with several toting 59-second bests right there, too.

200 FREE RELAY

Ohio State has the lion’s share of sprinters in the conference, returning two A-finalists from the 50 free and two B-finalists, more than any other team. They won this race by .30 over Michigan in 2020, and with sprinters like Emily Crane (25.7 LCM) and Kit Kat Zenick (22.30 from HS) in their freshman class to replace outgoing sprinter Lucija Jurkovic-Perisa (21.98 anchor), they look formidable once again.

Michigan, though, has Maggie MacNeil and Daria Pyshnenko back; they’re the fastest 50 freestylers in the conference at 21.30 and 21.82, respectively. They need to replace their third and fourth legs: Vanessa Krause (22.45) and Miranda Tucker (22.07). Olivia Carter could be an option, with a 22.95 lifetime best from a January 2020 dual meet against Michigan State. Freshman Claire Newman is the fastest Wolverine this season besides MacNeil and Pyshnenko, but only at 23.69, though she has a lifetime best of 22.95 from her senior year Michigan HS State Championships.

The Wolverines will probably need to improve upon their 2020 showing, meaning they’ll likely need two 22-lows, if not a 21-split, to keep up with Ohio State.

Meanwhile, at 1:30.11, the Northwestern Wildcats actually lead the conference in this relay. Senior Maddie Smith is having a great season, and her 22.45 has her at #3 in the conference in the individual 50 free this year, ahead of Wildcat freshman and Turkish import Selen Ozbilen (22.57). Freshman Isabella Wallace has been 23.4 this season, while the versatile Ally Larson split a 22.82 on NU’s conference-leading relay, where Wallace anchored in 22.76 and Smith popped a 21.92 split. Like Michigan and OSU, Northwestern had big conference drops last year under head coach Katie Robinson, so this might be a three-team battle.

SELECTIONS

The Swimulator, which doesn’t factor in diving, has some interesting projections. Northwestern is projected to jump from fourth last year to first this year, and by over 100 points, with defending champions Ohio State down at fourth. There are also some discrepancies, like only two logged 1650 free swims meaning 22 scorers in that event are unaccounted for, and some swimmers who are not competing in the NCAA this year have times from other meets factored in. Meanwhile, Rutgers is redshirting the majority of its roster this year. The Swimulator is never perfect, but COVID-19 has thrown more wrinkles into its projection than usual.

The top five teams are definitely right, but the order probably won’t look like this; expect Ohio State and Michigan to improve by a good margin on these projections. Last year, Ohio State scored over 500 points more than the Swimulator projected, while Purdue (big diving group) scored over 200 more points than projected, Michigan out-performed by almost 200 points, Wisconsin gained over 100 and Northwestern scored about 70 more points than predicted. Indiana and Minnesota both fell just short of projections.

Looking at the handful of times we have to go off of, which is not much, it feels like OSU and Michigan are again under-valued. We should see a similar breakdown to last year, with OSU/Michigan in the top tier, then NU/Wisconsin/Indiana, then a third tier with Minnesota/Penn State/Purdue. The top five teams besides Indiana have deeper teams than last year, though, as does Minnesota.

SWIMULATOR RANKINGS

Northwestern 1118
Michigan 951
Wisconsin 760
Ohio St 607
Indiana 589
Penn St 562.5
Minnesota 555.5
Iowa 360.5
Nebraska 299
Purdue 200
Illinois 180
Rutgers 120.5
Michigan St 0


SWIMSWAM PICKS

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

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Brandi
7 days ago

This meet actually starts 2/23 with relay timed finals. Your order of events is off. Big 10 is adopting the 5-day format for conf this year. Do you have a link to the psych sheet?

Last edited 7 days ago by Brandi
Anonymous
7 days ago

Guerra commenting in 3..2…1…

Oh-io
7 days ago

Go Bucks!!!

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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