2006 Big Ten Women's Swimming and Diving Championships Preview

Feb. 14, 2006

The 2006 edition of the Big Ten Conference women's swimming and diving championships makes its debut at the Ohio State University's McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion. The Buckeyes host some of the nation's most highly touted competitors in women's swimming and diving in the conference competition that kicks off Wednesday, February 15. The league event features six squads ranked in the nation's top 25, including No. 11 Wisconsin who leads the way for the Big Ten, followed by defending Big Ten Champion Penn State at No. 14.

In last years championships, the Nittany Lions of Penn State rolled to a 693-point team total for the second title in program history. This year Ohio State will attempt to become the first school to win a championship in its home pool since Minnesota in 1999. Individually, the 2006 championships feature swimmers in each event who have qualified for the NCAA championships in March.

Freestyle

Michigan's Kaitlyn Brady will look to defend her Big Ten championship title in the 50 yard freestyle. After posting a 22.48-second finish to take top honors in 2005, Brady posted her best time of the season at the Texas A&M Fall Invitational. Her 22.66-second finish is the fastest performance from among conference competitors and earned her an A-standard qualification for the NCAA Championships in March. Fellow Wolverine Lindsay Smith is not far behind, finishing at 22.87 in that same race for the league's second-best time and an A-standard qualifying time. The Michigan pair lead a pack of strong sprint competitors, including 15 swimmers who already qualified for the NCAA Championship. Pushing Brady and Smith will be Wisconsin's Sarah Hernandez, whose B-standard time of 22.95 is her best on the season, and Northwestern's Andrea Huppman.

 

The biggest battle will be between Smith and Huppman in the mid-distance races. The second-place finisher in last year's 50-yard freestyle, Smith took top honors in the 100- and 200-yard freestyle events, tying the 100-yard record of 48.80 and resetting the 200-yard record at 1:45.6. With an A-standard qualifying time in the 200-yard event already she posted her best time this season (1.46:64), but Huppman is not far behind her with a season-best of 1:47:40. The Wildcat sophomore, Huppman finished second in last year's 100-yard freestyle event, but she has posted the best finish in the league this season. Her 49:46 time ranks seventh in the country and earned an A-standard NCAA qualification, while Smith's B-standard time of 49:77 is second-best among Big Ten swimmers. They highlight a group of 13 NCAA qualifiers from the Big Ten, including Purdue's Erica Chandler, Ohio State's Nicole Maglich and Minnesota's Christine Jennings, who round out the league's competitors ranked in the top 20 nationally.

 

Although last year's champion and Olympic gold medalist Carly Piper is gone from the 500-yard and 1650-yard competitions, there will be plenty of nationally acclaimed talent in the 2006 championship events. Minnesota's freshman duo Christine Jennings and Yuen Kobayashi rank third and fourth in the nation in the 500-yard event. Jennings has set the conference standard with an NCAA A-standard time of 4:43:52, just edging Kobayashi's 4:43:56 finish. Maglich and Chandler will also be challenging in the 500-yard event. Maglich finished fourth in last year's championships and boasts the 15th-best time in the country. In the long-distance competition, Kobayashi holds the top 1650-yard time on the season. Her 16:28:02 earned a NCAA B-standard qualifying mark and set the pace for the Big Ten's 12 qualifiers. The field also features her teammate Jennings, Maglich and last year's third-place finisher, Michigan's Susan Gilliam.

 

In the team freestyle events, Michigan looks to repeat its sweeping performance from the 2005 Championships. The Wolverine quartet touched the wall first in each freestyle relay event to take home three first place honors. The Wolverine 200-yard relay team has paced the conference this year with Brady and Smith teaming with Hannah Smith and Noelle Martin for the top time of 1:32.29. The margin between first and second is separated by only half of a second. Minnesota's quartet of Erin Holtmeyer, Jennifer Hasling, Stacy Busack and Sarah Perrott holds the No. 2 time of 1:32.73 heading into the conference championships.

 

This year's 400-yard freestyle relay Wolverine team has gone undefeated in its four races this season. The crew of Brady, Hannah Smith, Lindsey Smith and Abby Seskevics earned a provisional qualifying spot for the NCAA meet with a 3:21.72 time in the 400-yard event this season. Their time leads the league while Purdue's squad has also earned a B-standard qualification time of 3:23.69 with the team of Susan Hentschel, Kimbre Vogel, Lauren Willis and Chandler. In the long-distance relay, Wisconsin's quartet of Emily Carpenter, Anna Trinidad, Jen Illescas, and Johnson has the advantage this season, leading the Big Ten Conference with a time of 7:17.64. Minnesota brings another challenging squad to the block in Jennings, Jennifer Shaughnessy, Kate Hardt and Kobayashi, who teamed up for a provisional qualification of their own with a time of 7:20.81.

 

Backstroke

Indiana's Leila Vaziri looks to replicate a title-winning performance after claiming 2005 Big Ten Championships crown in the 100-yard backstroke with the third-best performance in the championships' history. She has already earned a provisional qualification to the NCAA Championships this season, posting a time of 54:50, but in order to repeat, Vaziri has to compete against some of the nation's best. Penn State senior Sarah Hauput finished third in last year's championships and currently ranks second in the nation. The owner of the All-time Big Ten record of 53.17, Hauput's top performance this season earned her an A-standard qualification at 53.51. Among the field are four more NCAA qualifiers including the Wolverines' Brady, Minnesota's Katie Wind, Purdue's Jenae Gill and last year's runner-up, Wisconsin's Susan Johnson.

 

In the 200-yard backstroke, the Big Ten boasts even more of the country's top competitors. Defending champion Johnson ranks ninth in the nation and leads a deep Badger pack of three NCAA-qualified swimmers. After finishing third in last year's event, Brady set the league standard in the 200-yard event with the nation's third-best time (1:56:35). Johnson welcomes her teammate Anna Trinidad, who rounds out league competitors in the nation's top 20, while Hauput claimed her provisional qualification in the Nittany Lions' final regular season contest.

 

Breaststroke

Another Badger duo is poised to create waves in the 100-yard breast stroke competition. Amalia Sarnecki and Yi Ting Siow have notched the No. 1 and 2 league times in the event this season with B-standard qualifying performances. Sarnecki placed third in last year's championships race. Rounding out the Big Ten's NCAA provisional qualifiers are Michigan's Valeria Silva, Purdue's Jennifer Lavers and Penn State freshman Abby Hoisington.

 

In the 200-yard event, it is Siow besting Sarnecki by nearly three seconds. The Wisconsin freshman Siow powered to a 2:11:59 finish in the team's third meet of the season for the nation's second-fastest time. Sarnkecki, who fell short of Michigan's Justine Mueller for first place in last year's championship, clocked her best performance this season at 2:14:82. Mueller will try to defend her crown in the event. She posted the conference's fourth-fastest time this season after Lavers. Joining Lavers in among Big Ten NCAA qualifiers is teammate Rory Belk.

 

Butterfly

Johnson and Brady will battle it out again in the 100-yard butterfly. In last year's championships final, Brady edged Johnson for second place by 3/100ths of a second. Currently, Johnson holds a slight edge, ranking fourth-fastest in the country with a time of 53:63. Brady earned the seventh-fastest spot with a 53:79 finish of her own this season. The Badgers will draw strength in numbers in the 100-yard event, having four competitors including Johnson who have already qualified for NCAA competition. Jenny Gelden, Sarah Hernandez and Katie Imhoff-Smith give Wisconsin plenty of depth. Michigan and Penn State also feature two NCAA provisionally qualified competitors. Backing up Brady is Payton Johnson, while the Nittany Lions rely on the senior combination of Amberle Biedermann and Hauput. Biedermann claimed the championship crown in 2005 with a blazing :54.10 finish.

 

Gelden has set the pace this season in the 200-yard event. She earned a B-standard NCAA qualification in early December with a 1:59:97 finish. Right behind her are Beidermann and defending champion Ohio State's Griet Bruelens, whose top times on the season differ by a mere six 1/100ths of a second. Biedermann's teammate Karie Haglund enters her first Big Ten Championships with one of the conference's top five times, while Purdue's Carlene Takaki looks to improve on her fourth place finish in last year's contest.

 

Individual Medley

The Big Ten field in the individual medley proves how multitalented the conference's competitors are, hinging on performance all four strokes. In the 200-yard individual medley, the field includes 13 competitors who have qualified for the NCAA championship and five swimmers who have posted times ranked among the nation's top 25. Wisconsin's Siow and Andrea Wiesner lead the pack as third and fourth in the country, respectively. Both claim A-standard NCAA qualifications while their teammate Trinidad missed the A-standard by eight 1/100ths of a second but holds the nation's seventh-fastest time at 2:00:60. Another Badger in Sarnecki and Minnesota's Shaughnessy round out the top 20, but the rest of the field is full of potential championship contenders. Michigan's Mueller won both the 200- and 400-yard individual medley titles events at her first conference championships in 2005, earning 2005 Big Ten Conference Swimmer of the Championship and Freshman of the Year honors. Mueller already holds a B-standard qualifying time of 2:03:60, and will look to back up her rookie performance.

 

In the 400-yard event, the tables have turned in the battle of the Badgers. Wiesner notched the second-fasted time in the nation in early December, automatically qualifying for the NCAAs with a 4:14:25 finish. Her teammate Siow ranks eighth and earned a B-standard time for eighth in the country, but Penn State's Kaitlin O'Brien cannot be overlooked. O'Brien owns the seventh-fastest time nationally and is supported by a strong core of veteran Penn State competitors, including Biedermann, Haglund and Megan Palera. In an event that includes one of the most talented groups of swimmers, the Big Ten features 10 of the nation's top 25 competitors who all have a chance to touch the wall first in the finals.

 

Medley Relay

In the team medley relay competition, Penn State swept last year's championships races. The Nittany Lions edged Wisconsin in both the 200- and 400-yard events. After the Nittany Lions saw two of their medley championship teammates depart for graduation, the Badgers might have the experience edge behind seniors Hernandez and Sarnecki, a junior in Johnson and a sophomore Jenny Gelden from last year's runner-up squad in the 400-yard race. The Badgers teamed Johnson and Sarnecki with Trinidad and Jackie Vavrek for an NCAA A-standard qualifying time of 3:29:31 that ranks among the best in the country. Last year's third place finisher, Michigan also boasts a potent quartet in Brady, Silva, Hannah Smith and Payton Johnson. The Wolverine squad also surpassed the NCAA A-standard consideration benchmark with a time of 3:24.24.

 

Diving

In the diving competition, Indiana leads the conference with five divers having secured zone qualifying scores so far this season. Defending one-meter diving champion, Hoosier Christina Loukas notched a new school record with her 335.55 point total this season and earned automatic qualification to the NCAA Zone Diving Championships. In the three-meter competition, Lindsay Weigle snagged a school-record performance of her own, nailing six dives to post a 357.75.  Three more Hoosiers in Heather Chapman, Ashley Greene and Jade Summerlin have all paved their way to the NCAA meet as well.

 

Northwestern's Chelsea Davis, a three-time Big Ten Diver of the Week honoree this season, lead the Wildcats and the conference in both the one- and three-meter diving events. Challenging Davis in both events is Purdue's Carrie McCambridge. The Boilermaker diver holds the second-best scores in both one- and three-meter competitions among conference competitors, and her teammate Amanda Miller is right behind her. The host squad Ohio State features Julie Broms, who will be defending her conference crowns in the three-meter diving event. Joining them in the Big Ten Championships as provisionally NCAA-bound competitors in both events are Minnesota's Erica Schiffler and Brianna Hubbard, and Michigan State's Amy Schmidt and Danielle Williams.

 

In the platform diving competition, last year's third-place finisher Weigle enters the 2005 Championships as the frontrunner. Her 304.75 score ranks among the best in the country and is less than a point ahead of her teammate Loukas' best score (303.90) this season. McCambridge and Chapman will also be looking to improve on their respective fourth- and eighth-place performances from last year's competition.