Big Ten Championships Preview

Indiana boasts the most Athlete of the Week accolades this year, including three-time swimmer of the week Leila Vaziri.

Indiana boasts the most Athlete of the Week accolades this year, including three-time swimmer of the week Leila Vaziri.

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February 8-10 • University of Minnesota • Minneapolis, Minnesota • University Aquatic Center

Championships Central

The University of Minnesota will play host to some of the nationally acclaimed collegiate women's swimming and diving talent as the Golden Gophers compete for the conference title at the 2007 Big Ten Championships. The conference event will feature five squads ranked in the top 25 of the latest CSCAA Rankings. No. 10 Michigan leads the way for the Big Ten, followed by Indiana at No. 13, No. 15 Penn State and No. 18 Wisconsin. Minnesota (21) rounds out the conference representation in the rankings.

Barbie Viney, the 100-yard freestyle champion at last year's championships, will try to defend her title and lead the Illini who finished ninth overall last season. Sophomore Marissa Clapp was the lone Illini to garner Athlete of the Week (October 24, 2006) accolades this year when she took seven-of-eight first-place finishes on the weekend.

Indiana will boast five student-athletes that were Big Ten first-team selections last year. Three Hoosiers have received weekly laurels this season on eight different occasions this year including three-time swimmer of the week, Leila Vaziri, and three-time diver of the week, Christina Loukas. Indiana returns the one-meter diving champion in Loukas, as well as the full Hoosier crew that shocked the 400-yard freestyle relay field at last year's championships by taking the win in the final stretch to capture Indiana's first swimming title of the championships.

Iowa, who finished tenth at the championships last year, ranks in the top 5 in conference rankings in three individual events. Sophomore Ashley Dell ranks second in the 1000-yard freestyle with 10:16.48 and fourth in the 1650 freestyle with 17:12.87. Senior Emmalee Haeger is fourth in the 100 breastroke in a time of 1:04.33. Alison Gschwend took home Athlete of the Week honors for the first time in her career on December 12, 2006 with her three first-place finish weekend against Iowa State.

The Wolverines commanded the title count at the 2006 championships, claiming seven of the 21 titles. Michigan, who has garnered the most Big Ten Team Championships in conference history with 14 will look to first-team All-Conference honorees Kaitlyn Brady, Justine Mueller, Hannah Smith, Lindsey Smith and Payton Johnson to pace the Wolverines from their third-place finish from a year ago. Brady took home four titles as well as Swimmer of the Year accolades.

The Spartans will look to improve their 102.5 point performance from last year in Columbus, Ohio this weekend and will be led the Dec. 12, 2006 Diver of the Week, Katie Edwards. The Michigan State women closed out the regular season with a victory over host Oakland, 170-128. Megan Reponen led the way for the women claiming victory in the 100 (58.70) and 200 (2:09.43) butterfly. The Michigan State women closed out the season with a record of 3-5-1

Minnesota finished 15.5 points off the lead to claim second place in 2006. The Gophers return three All-Big Ten first team selections from a year ago including 2006 two-time title winner sophomore Yuen Kobayashi, who took Athlete of the Week honors on December 5, 2006.

Wildcat freshman Kassia Shishkoff, Athlete of the Week on January 9, 2007, will lead NU as she leads the team in four events (500, 1000, 1650 freestyle; and 400 IM) and three NCAA provisional times. Despite having no seniors on this year's squad, seven different Wildcats and two relays still earned 17 NCAA `B' provisional qualification times during the dual-meet portion of the schedule.
Ohio State hopes to improve on last year's seventh place finish in last year's Big Ten Tournament as the Buckeyes are coming off a strong 193-101 showing in their last dual-meet of the season against Kenyon College at home. The team is led by 2005 200-yard butterfly champion in Griet Buelens. This year, Buelens enters the championships with an undefeated dual-meet record in the event and already has NCAA provisional times in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle, as well as the 100-yard butterfly. Elaine Chan joins her teammates in the bid for a spot at the NCAA championships, with a NCAA `B' time in the 50-yard freestyle to bid for a spot at the championships.

The Nittany Lions will look to repeat last year's conference title and attempt to win their fourth championship overall. Penn State heads into the championships behind Big Ten Co-Swimmer and Diver of the Week selections (January 30, 2007), Kelly Nelson and Kimberlee Peifer, respectively. PSU returns All-Big Ten selection and 400 IM champion, Kaitlin O'Brien from the 2006 championships.

Purdue, who finished fifth last year returns senior Carlene Takaki to defend her 200-yard breastroke title. The Boilermakers lost diver Carrie McCambridge, the 2006 platform champion, however NCAA All-American platform diver Amanda Miller is a favorite to lead a strong Purdue diving crew into Big Ten's. 

The Badgers claimed six Athletes of the Week honors this year, second most out of Big Ten squad. Wisconsin returns the 100 and 200-yard breaststroke champions, Amalia Sarnecki and Yi Ting Siow as well as Susan Johnson who coupled with Sarnecki and Siow helped the Badgers to a first place finish in the 200-yard medley relay.

Action begins Thursday (Feb. 8) morning at 11 a.m. CST with five swimming preliminary events followed by one-meter diving at 1:00 p.m. Finals conclude the day at 7:00 p.m. The same schedule continues the rest of the weekend with three-meter diving and platform diving starting at 1:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, respectfully.