It’s the halfway point of the 2011-2012 NCAA season, and in addition to our updates to our men’s and women’s power rankings, it’s time to give out some first-semester awards.
And I’ll cut-off our supremely-intelligent readers before you leave comments – we realize that programs like Florida and Cal are more than happy to give up mid-season awards in favor of end-of-season success. Look at these more as a fun and interesting topic for debate through the first four months of a season, rather than a comment on end-of-season success (with the exception of favorite for Conference Championships).
Without further ado, we’ll start with the Big Ten:
Men’s Swimmer of the Semester – Kyle Whitaker, Michigan – There’s no clear front-runner for this award in the Big Ten, but Whitaker gets the nod because his IM times of 1:44.63/3:45.17 have been dominant in the conference, heads above his competition.
Honorable Mention: Cody Miller, Indiana; Andrew Elliott, Ohio State; Miguel Ortiz, Michigan
Women’s Swimmer of the Semester – Margaux Farrell, Indiana – Farrell has quietly snuck to the conference’s top times in the 100, 200, and 500 freestyles, with her 4:38.79 being the most impressive as the leader of a deep Indiana distance group. She’ll have a slight conflict in the spring with the French Olympic Trials, and may be forced to leave NCAA’s a day early to fly across the pond.
Honorable Mention: Allysa Vavra, Indiana; Ashley Wanland, Wisconsin
Men’s Coach of the Semester – Bill Wadley, Ohio State – The Buckeyes have been strong this year despite the graduation of a National Teamer in Keefer and another one redshirting in Phillips. Big freshman class, but they’re stepping up, and new leaders like Jason Schnur are emerging.
Honorable Mentions: Marc Long, Iowa; Ray Looze, Indiana; Mike Bottom, Michigan
Women’s Coach of the Semester – John Klinge, Purdue – The Boilermakers are crushing the school’s record books this season. Through the first semester, they’ve had 15 swims that rank in the school’s all-time top 5, including three school records (and 5 freshman records from Rhiannon Sheets). If their divers weren’t all redshirting to prepare for the Olympics, this is a top-20 team at NCAA’s.
Honorable Mentions: Jim Richardson, Michigan; Whitney Hite, Wisconsin
Men’s Conference Favorite – Michigan – the Wolverines got nothing but older since last year, where they leaned heavily on freshman to win the conference title. The Buckeyes are good, as are the Hoosiers, but Michigan is still too deep all-around to lose Big Tens.
Women’s Conference Favorite – Indiana – When you look through the conference top-10 lists, yes there are other teams with some good swimmers, but Indiana still is at the top of the heap in more events than anyone else – and that’s with absence of their best butterflier and with only only a seemingly-moderate mid-season rest.
Men’s Co-Freshmen of the Semester – Keanu Stevenson, Ohio State; Richard Funk, Michigan – Both are freshmen filling in breaststroke positions that their teams needed desparately. I don’t usually award co-honors, but in this case, the times are so similar, that it’s hard to pick one over the other. It’s going to be fun to watch the Big Ten breaststrokers duke it out over the next few years – The top 10 200 breaststrokers in the conference are comprised of 4 freshman and 3 sophomores.
Honorable Mention: Steven Zimmerman, Ohio State; Steve Schmuhl, Indiana; Bruno Ortiz, Michigan
Women’s Freshman of the Semester – Justine Ress, Indiana – The youngest in the Ress clan is following in the footsteps of her Dad and older brother, both of whom are also Hoosiers, as a phenomenal swimmer, and like her brother is a backstroker. She actually leads the Big Ten this year in the 200 back, and has put up a pretty decent 100 fly (54.76) to go along with it.
Honorable Mention: Rhiannon Sheets, Purdue; Becky Stoughton, Iowa; Kiera Janzen, Minnesota
Men’s Breakout Swimmer of the Semester (no freshmen) – Ryan Bubb, Ohio State – As we alluded to above, Ohio State has had a ton of swimmers step up with big swims, but none perhaps more surprising than Ryan Bubb. When he came to Columbus from Nebraska, he was a pure sprinter (freestyle, butterfly). Nothing was further from his mind than a 200 fly – he doesn’t have a result from the race either from his junior or senior season. This year, however, he sits second in the conference in the race behind only the great Dan Madwed with a 1:44.86. That’s an awesome job by Wadley to recognize an untapped reservoir of talent.
Honorable Mention: James Wells, Indiana; Bryan Williams, Michigan State; Connor Jaeger, Michigan
Women’s Breakout Swimmer of the Semester (no freshmen) – Caitlin Dauw, Michigan – Dauw was an NCAA B-finalist in the 100 fly last year, but this season she’s blown away even what she did last year. She ranks 6th in the country in the 100 fly (52.5) and has added a phenomenal 1:57.4 in the 200 fly to it. But mostly, she’s stepped up and become a leader of the Michigan women’s squad that badly needed one.
Honorable Mention: Emily Fogle, Purdue; Emily Creran, Ohio State; Ashley Cohagen, Michigan
Prepping for a Big Second Half – Jenny Wilson, Northwestern – With Winter Nationals being in long course this year (and in the pre-Olympic year in general), it’s easy to overlook some great swims because their teams used a long course meet for their winter rest meet. Wilson swam a 1:10.13 in Atlanta in long course, which converts to something around a 1:01.0 in yards.
Honorable Mention: Shannon Draves, Ohio State; Brenna McLean, Indiana
Prepping for a Big Second Half – Jacob Jarzen, Michigan State – Jarzen is a bright spot for the bottom-of-the-conference Spartans. He’s looked strong in the first half of 2011, and if he saves his major taper this year for NCAA’s, he shoudl score in three events (100 back, 200 back, and 100 fly), with a 100 back A-final possible.