Michigan leads Big Ten Championships at the end of Day One

Feb. 8, 2007

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Minneapolis, Minn. -- Thursday night marked the opening night of the 2007 Big Ten Conference Women's Swimming and Diving Championship. Touted as one of the most highly competitive conferences in the country, the Big Ten event features five squads ranked in the top 25 of the latest CSCAA Rankings. Michigan, ranked 10th in the country, powered to an early lead in the 200-yard freestyle, and after five events holds a narrow lead in team points ahead of host school and 13th ranked Indiana, 215-188.5.

The opening event of this year's championships at the University Aquatics Center saw the Michigan Wolverines repeat as 200-yard freestyle relay champions, improving on last year's time of 1:30.02. The quartet of Kaitlyn Brady, Margaret Kelly, Hannah Smith and Lindsey Smith reached the wall first at 1:29.88 for an automatic qualification in the NCAA Championships. Powered by Jackie Vavrek's strong opening leg the Wisconsin Badgers finished second with an A-standard time of their own to return to Minneapolis for nationals in March.

Youngsters littered the 500-yard freestyle event, yet hardly showed their age as the top three finishers consisted of underclassmen. Sophomore Christine Jennings leaped from a fifth-place 4:47.40 morning prelim swim to finish first in the middle distance 500-yard freestyle event and claim her first Big Ten title. The Gopher bettered her time by nearly four seconds and paced the field with an A-standard time of 4:43.74. Jennings biggest competition came from defending title holder and teammate Yuen Kobayashi, who touched the wall second in 4:44.31. The top three finishers qualified automatically for nationals with freshman Badger Gabby Maddalena taking third and rounding out the event.

Wisconsin went on to take the next two events while dusting off a seven year old Big Ten record. After taking second in prelim action this morning, sophomore Yi Ting Siow took the event in 1:57.60 to break Shannon Shakespeare's (MICH) record of 1:57.66 set in 2000. Flip flopping places with Siow from morning prelims, Margaret Kelly (MICH) claimed second in 1:58.47. Siow was joined on the medal stand by teammate Andrea Wiesner, who placed third.

After helping her team to second place finish in the 200-yard freestyle relay, Vavrek claimed the crown in the 50-yard freestyle. She finished with a time of 22.41, narrowly missing a chance to set a new championships record by nearly .1 of a second. Just like in morning prelims Vavrek fended off defending Big Ten champ Kaitlyn Brady again, as Brady captured touched the wall second in 22.74. Her teammate Lindsey Smith finished third to give the Wolverines enough points to regain first-place in the team standings. Last year's runner-up, Stacy Busack (MINN) finished fourth, yet swam a strong NCAA `A' cut time in morning preliminaries to secure a spot at the NCAA Championships.

A composed Christina Loukas showed just how consistent she is by capturing her third consecutive one-meter spring board diving title with a final score of 341.50. Michigan's Elyse Lee followed in second with 314.30 while senior Boilermaker Amanda Miller scored a 311.30 for third.  

A second place finish in the 400-yard medley relay secured the Wolverine's a spot atop the standings after day one of competition. The Hoosiers, a close second, improved on a 3:43.02 seed time by taking the event in a time of 3:38.16. The top six relay teams qualified in NCAA `B' cut time.

Championship Standings

1. Michigan                           215

2. Indiana                              188.5

3. Minnesota                        150

4. Penn State                        144.5

5. Wisconsin                        118.5

6. Northwestern                   88

7. Purdue                               75

8. Illinois                               63.5

9. Ohio State                        58

10. Iowa                                39

11. Michigan State             16