This weekend, swimming fans will get a preview of the Big Ten Championships as the conference will host two two-day quad meets: one in Madison at the University of Wisconsin, and one in Columbus at Big Ten/National Championships host Ohio State.
In a quad meet, unlike an invite, each team is scored as though they are swimming a dual meet against each of the other three teams. Essentially, each team will receive 3 dual meet decisions.
Big Ten Quad- Columbus, Ohio
The no. 9 Ohio State men will welcome in defending Big Ten Champ no.6 Michigan, Penn St., and Northwestern. The Buckeyes are riding high after dominating no. 25 Indiana in their last meet, and have their highest ranking in several years.
For Michigan, the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion will become a second home over the next 2 months, as Michigan will be in Columbus for 5 meets, culminating with the 2010 National Championship meet. Head coach Mike Bottom sports a perfect 7-0 Big Ten dual meet record (11-1 overall) since taking over for Bob Bowman as Michigan’s head coach last season.
The Michigan and Ohio State dual will be the most hotly contested combination and will garner the most national interest. Northwestern is in a rebuilding phase after so many years of success with National Champions Matt Grevers and Mike Alexandrov that resulted in them finishing 6th at the 2007 National Championships. Penn State has only 1 swimmer, Brian Alden in the 50 free (20.42) who ranks in the top 8 times in the Big Ten in any event this season.
One of the most exciting races of the weekend will be the 200 I.M. It will feature two of the top I.M’ers in the nation in Ohio State’s Just Farra and Michigan’s Andre Schultz, who both set season bests .01 seconds apart on the same weekend back in December (1:45.66, 1:45.67) which stand as the #4 and #5 times in the nation this year. Northwestern’s Alex Tyler currently sits 5th in the Big Ten in this event, and has a chance to make some noise at the end.
Michigan’s Tyler Clary, who is the defending NCAA Champ in the 100 backstroke and 400 I.M., will show down with Andrew Elliot in the 100 backstroke as the top two Big Ten swimmers in the event this season. Clary will also swim the 200 back, an event where he is currently the #2 ranked swimmer in the nation.
Northwestern’s best chance at scoring a top time is probably Sean Matthews in the 200 fly. His best time of 1:47.35 currently sits 5th in the Big Ten and was the earliest time of all of the top 10. Now that tapers have started across the land, the potential is there for Matthews to get back to form and pull an upset.
Ohio State will look to dominate the breaststroke events, and Michigan will have a big edge in the backstroke events, but everything else will be a tossup. Ohio State comes in with the top Big Ten times in both 200 relays, as well as the 400 medley. Michigan will be the favorite to win the 400 free relay, and the 800 free relay, which Michigan would be expected to dominate, will not be swum.
The Penn State women will accompany the men to face off against the Ohio State women. Both teams are unranked, but received votes in the latest CSCAA poll.
Big Ten Quad-University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI.
In Madison, the quad meet will be on the women’s side, featuring 3 ranked teams, #10 Minnesota, #17 Wisconsin, and #22 Purdue, along with the University of Illinois.
No. 10 Minnesota is coming off of a win at the Swimming World College Conference Carnival in New Brunswick, NJ in dominating fashion last Saturday. They took the meet by 99 points over host Rutgers. The host team Wisconsin won it’s a meet over in-state rival Green Bay last weekend, it’s first after returning from it’s winter training trip to Hawaii. Purdue brings a 5-1 record into the meet, after dropping it’s first dual last weekend to no. 14 Indiana. Illinois has struggled this season, and is 1-1 in Big Ten competition, but doesn’t have a single swimmer with a top 10 time in the Big Ten this season.
The 50 freestyle should be an exciting race, as it will feature 6 out of the top 9 swimmers in the Big Ten this season, led by Wisconsin’s Margaret Meyer (22.58). Meyer also comes into the meet as the Nation’s top 100 backstroker (52.41).
In the 100 breaststroke, the chase will be on to catch Minnesota’s Jillian Tyler, who is currently the #2 ranked 100 breaststroker in the nation. The race will feature 4 out of the Big Ten’s top 5 100 breaststrokers on the season, including Tyler, Ashley Wanland of Wisconsin, Haley Spencer of Minnesota, and Paulina Gralow of Wisconsin.
With the University of Illinois being the only men’s team in the Big Ten without a swimming program, this becomes a tri meet for the men, with no. 9 Minnesota, no. 18 Purdue, and unranked Wisconsin. Wisconsin doesn’t have any swimmers in the top 10 of the Big Ten, and is expected to lose both duals.
Minnesota’s Michael Richards comes in as the only swimmer in the Big Ten to go sub-20 seconds in the 50 freestyle this season (19.92). He will gun it out with teammate Curtis Lee (20.24) in both the 50 and 100 freestyles.
In the 100 breaststroke, Purdue’s Aaron Koger (55.13) will showdown with Minnesota’s Ivan Gutesa (55.33). The two men both have provisional cuts in the event, and are currently ranked #3 and #5 in the Big Ten.
#25 Indiana Men Face Off at #16 Louisville
The no. 25 Indiana Hoosiers will travel just accross the state line to face off against no. 16 Louisville. Louisville is the class of the Big East conference, and will likely win the conference title. They have at least 1 swimmer in the top 3 in the Big East in all events, and have 2 in the top 5 in all events except for backstroke. The Hoosiers are coming off a humbling defeat against no. 9 Ohio State, where they failed to win a single event.
Despite the difference in ranking, and relative success thus far this season, the meet could be closer than it appears on first glance, given that the Big Ten is a much stronger conference than the Big East.
The star of the Louisville team is Carlos Almeida, who currently has the 6th best time in the country in the 100 breaststroke. He will be countered by Indiana’s Aaron Opell, who was 5th at the 2009 World Championship trials in the 200 breaststroke to earn a spot on the U.S. National Team. Though Almeida specializes in the shorter distance, and Opell in the longer, both will strive to pull off a sweep of the breaststroke events by knocking the other one off.
Indiana (#14), Louisville(#13) Women Collide
The Indiana and Louisville women, like their male counterparts, will both come into this meet ranked. The two teams were separated by only 2 points in the latest CSCAA poll.
This will be the final meet for both teams before their respective conference championships, and both teams come off of big wins over in-state rivals: Indiana over no. 22 Purdue, and Loisville over Kentucky.
Indiana’s Margaux Farrell was named last week’s Big Ten Women’s Swimmer of the Week after posting seasonal bests in both the 100 and 200 freestyles. Louisville will counter with a strong contingent of it’s own freestylers, paced by senior Whitney Campbell, who is ranked no. 7 in the nation in the 50 free, and no. 18 in the nation in the 100.
The 200 backstroke will be a showdown between outstanding freshmen Taylor Wohrley of Indiana and Eszter Povazsay, whose best times this season are separated by a mere .02 seconds (1:59.35 and 1:59.37 respectively). Both women are just short of achieving NCAA B-cuts.