Leading team standings, Minnesota sends 13 swimmers to tonight's finals


COLUMBUS, Ohio - After the first full day of competition at the 2006 Big Ten Women's Swimming and Divning Championships on Thursday saw more than a hundred NCAA qualifications set, including 25 A-standard marks, the day three slate had plenty of hype to live up to.

The records continued to fall Friday, and 55 NCAA qualifying marks were set in the preliminary competition. The team race to the title is wide open with several squads moving into championship contention. Minnesota entered day three of competition with a seven-point lead over Michigan for first in the team standings and leads the field with 13 swimmers entering finals compeition. Second-place Michigan will send 10 swimmers to the finals while fourth-place Penn State looks to gain ground in the team standings with 12.

400-yard individual medley
The preliminary races started off the block with the 400-yard individual medley. Defending champion Michigan's Justine Mueller had reclaimed her crown in the 200-yard event Thursday night, and put herself in position for another repeat with a 4:18.59 time for fifth place and a spot in the championship final.

Penn State showed its strength in numbers in day two competition, and the Nittany Lions continued their pattern of success with three swimmers finishing in the top four. Freshman Kaitlin O'Brien touched the wall first at 4:13.65 for an automatic qualification to the NCAA meet. Her time crushed the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion pool record previously set by her in January. In second, fellow Nittany Lion rookie Kelly Nelson finished with a B-standard time of 4:16.37, and Megan Palera rounded out the final qualifiers for Penn State in fourth with a time of 4:16.78. Team standings leader Minnesota also sent three freshman swimmers to the finals of the 400-yard event, including third-place finisher Jennifer Shaughnessy (4:16.57).

Wisconsin's Andrea Wiesner, who entered the conference championships with the No. 1 time, has already earned her spot at the NCAA meet but missed qualifying for the finals by one spot.

100-yard butterfly
With two titles already to her credit at the 2006 championships, Michigan's Brady continued her quest for yet another crown in the 100-yard butterfly. She raced to a 53.38-second finish for first, earning automatic qualification to the NCAA meet. The runner-up in last year's final, Brady turned in the best time in conference history, eclipsing the championships record set by defending champion Amberle Biedermann of Penn State in 2004. Brady is one of three Wolverines heading to the finals. Payton Johnson also qualified for the championship final with a time of 54.93 for seventh.

Penn State continued its dominance with the 100-yard butterfly, sending two swimmers to the evening's championship final and one more to the consolation final. Biedermann set a new school record for the Nittany Lions with a time of 54.04 in second. Fellow Penn State senior Sarah Haput finished in fourth at 54.33 while Inidana's Annica Lofstedt came in third at 54.06.

200-yard freestyle
Northwestern's Andrea Huppman grabbed the Wildcats' first top seed for the finals, finishing first in the 200-yard freestyle preliminary at 1:47.76. Lindsey Smith, the 2005 title holder, finished second with a time of 1:47.93 and will be the Wolverines' only representative in the finals. Penn State also qualified one swimmer with Molly Crispell finishing third wtih a time of 1:48.00. Minnestoa dominated the field in the 200-yard, qualifying five Gophers to the finals.

Leading the Gophers is Yuen Kobayashi, who clocked a fifth-place finish of 1:48.41. The winner of yesterday's 500-yard freestyle final, she will look to claim her second crown of the championships. Senior Kate Hardt will also enter the championship final for Minnesota after finishing eighth with a B-standard qualifying time of 1:48.73.

The host Buckeyes earned two spots in the the championship race. Senior Nichole Maglich touched the wall fourth with a time of 1:48.40, and teammate Griet Buelens finished close behind her at 1:48.61 for sixth.

100-yard breaststroke
Wisconsin's Amalia Sarnecki touched the wall first in the 100-yard breaststroke, finishing with a McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion pool record time of 1:03.07. The Penn State freshmen came up big for the Nittany Lions again. Abby Hoisington notched a second-place finish of 1:03.37 followed by Caitlin Meehan's eighth-place time of 1:04.18. The Nittany Lions rookies will have face a dominant Purdue trio in the championship finals.

The Boilermakers claimed the third, fourth and seventh place spots with strong showings from Jennifer Lavers, Rory Belk and Shannon Grace, respectively. Their fnals performances could reap dividends for the Boilermakers who currently sit in sixth place in the team standings. Michigan, Minnesota and Indiana also have two swimmers each advancing to the 100-yard event finals.

100-yard backstroke
In the 100-yard backstroke prelim, Penn State sent three more athletes to the Friday finals. In first, the Nittany Lions' Sarah Haupt finished with a time of 53.55 for an A-standard qualifying mark. She reset the pool record she had owned since January but missed the championships record that she set in 2003 by 11-hundredths of a second. Indiana's Leila Vaziri finished second at 54.47 followed by Minnesota's Katie Wind (55.23), Michigan's Carolina Sierra (55.50), Purdue's Jenae Gill (55.67) and Penn State's Erin Morris (55.99) - all of whom qualified for the NCAA Championships.

With a tie for 16th place at the end of five heats, the last spot in the 100-yard backstroke finals was decided in a swim-off. Minnesota's Stacy Busak edged Northwestern's Katie Paglini to give the Gophers three swimmers in the final competition.

Three-meter spring board diving preliminary competition is currently underway. Day three finals competition begins at 7:00 p.m. ET at McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion.  In addition to these events, conference champions will be crowned in the 400-yard medley relay. Check back to BigTen.org for live results and continuing coverage of the 2006 Big Ten Women's Swimming and Diving Championships.