Coming in to Day 3 of the 2010 Big Ten Women’s Championship, the Minnesota Golden Gophers held a small margin over the University of Michigan, Indiana, and Purdue. At the end of Friday, however, Indiana had zoomed ahead of the field, on the strength of three event wins.
The Hoosiers’ first place score is 451. Minnesota, despite winning three events of their own, slipped back to second at 418.5. The Gophers were hurt by their lack of depth and the fact that there were two events where Minnesota did not have a single A finalist. Purdue, with 318, and Michigan, with 314.5 seem to be battling for no better than a chance at second place. Ohio State was fifth with 283.5, followed by Wisconsin (255.5), Penn St. (230), Northwestern (171), Iowa (102), Michigan State (75), and Illinois (39).
In the 400 medley relay, the first event of the day, Minnesota held strong in their top position thanks to the team of Hannah Whitehead, Jillian Tyler, Kaylee Jamison, and Allison Eggers, who finished in 3:35.12. Michigan, who had been in second after place after the first two days of competition, finished in seventh place in the race, which seriously hurt them in the race for the team title. Indiana, on the other hand, vaulted themselves back into contention thanks to a second place finish.
It didn’t take much longer for Indiana to take the lead. In the 400 I.M., Allysa Vavra took first in 4:06.94, an A-cut, and Ashley Jones finished second in 4:10.66. Those were huge time drops for both women, as Vavra’s time was a season-best by over 8 seconds, and Jones’ by nearly 10 seconds. Amilee Smith also finished sixth for the Hoosiers, giving them 50 points in the event. Incredibly, Minnesota didn’t score a single point in the event, despite Kristen Steenvorden coming into the meet with the 4th best time in the conference. This knocked Minnesota all the way down to third place behind Michigan.
Donna Smailis scored a second straight win for Indiana when she won the 100 fly in 52.66. Michigan, still in contention at this point, got a second place finish from Margaret Kelly (52.72) and a fourth place finish from Caitlin Dauw (53.81). Minnesota finally got back in the scoring column with a third place finish from Kaylee Jamison and a fifth place finish from Megan Braun, but still lost more ground to Indiana and Michigan.
The 200 freestyle had a distinctly Hoosier feel to it, as 6 out of the 8 A-finalists were from either Purdue or Indiana. Margaux Farrell of Indiana took the top spot in 1:45.32, followed by Ariel Martin in 1:45.55. Minnesota, despite not having a single A-finalist, did manage to go 10-11-12, while Michigan was shutout, and barely snuck back into second place. Thanks to their great performance, along with some help from their in-state rivals, Indiana put some good distance between themselves and the rest of the field, and Michigan fell out of the race.
Minnesota’s Jillian Tyler scored the title in the 100 breaststroke in a blazing 59.35. Tyler expects to be one of the favorites to win the event at March’s NCAA Championships, along with Texas A&M’s Alia Atkinson and Auburn’s Micah Lawrence. This time, it was Indiana’s turn to be blocked out, as they failed to score a single point to Minnesota’s 64, and the Gophers briefly took the lead back by a slim 5.5 points.
The 100 backstroke, which was our race to watch after yesterday’s finals, ended up coming down to the wire between Wisconsin’s Margaret Meyer and an Indiana Hoosier, but we were suprised by which Hoosier it was. Kateryna Fesenko, who had the third best time in the country coming into the meet, finished in third place, and was outshone by teammate Donna Smailis. At the 50 yard mark, Fesenko and Meyer were neck-and-neck, but from out of nowhere, on the last 25, Smailis charged the field and made a run at Meyer. She had by far the best last-25 split of the field, while Fasenko had the worst, but it wasn’t enough to chase down Meyer. In the end, both Meyer (52.27) and Smailis (52.55) ended up with NCAA automatic qualifying times. Meyer and Smailis will be favorites for swimmer of the meet.
The Hoosiers’ lead over Minnesota would sit right around 20 points for the rest of the day, as Kelci Bryant won the 3-meter with her second pool record of the meet, and Indiana snagged a 4-6-8 finish.
Michigan will make a small push in tomorrow’s final day due to their prowess in the 100 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay, but the lead will be too great to make any serious run. Penn State, who is in 7th overall, will have their first serious chance at a medal in the 200 backstroke, where Amy Modglin will have the second seed.
I’m picking Indiana to hang on and repeat as champions. Scoring between the two teams will be very close tomorrow, and the final standing will likely not be locked up until the very last event, but Indiana should have just enough of a lead to hang on.