Penn State claims second consecutive conference title in exciting fashion

Feb. 18, 2006

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The 2006 Big Ten Conference Women's Swimming and Diving Championships saw a familiar champion but drastically different results Saturday. After cleaning up in the 2005 competition with a 196-point advantage, the Penn State Nittany Lions prevailed for the second straight year but not without quite a bit of competition. In the end, Penn State took home the title with a 552-536.5 advantage over Minnesota.

The Nittany Lions entered the final day of competition at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion on the campus of Ohio State University with a narrow two-point lead over Michigan. But the much-improved Minnesota Gophers were not to left out of the title hunt. The Gophers pulled within reach but the Nittany Lions depth proved to be too much. The Big Ten title is the third in Penn State history, with the first coming in 2002, and the second in as many years.

"We returned a pretty strong group from last year and we kept a steady approach all season long," said Penn State head coach Bill Dorenkott. "We try to do our best swimming in February and March. I'm proud of our kids and our staff."

Michigan followed Minnesota with 509 points for third, and Indiana used its solid diving squad to stay in the title hunt before finishing at fourth with 495 points. Purdue placed fifth with 428 points followed by Wisconsin's total of 358 and the hosting Buckeyes at 258. Rounding out the team standings are Northwestern in eighth with 244.5, Illinois in ninth with 207, Iowa in 10th with 163.5 and Michigan State with 102.5.

Michigan commanded the title count at the 2006 championships, claiming seven of the 21 titles. Minnesota and Wisconsin both garnered three each. Purdue, Penn State and Indiana all took home two a piece while Indiana and Illinois counted two first place honors.

In Saturday's finals, Minnesota's Yuen Kobayashi added a second title to match her 500-yard freestyle crown, winning the longest event in collegiate swimming. She turned in a 16:12.95 finish in the 1650-yard freestyle race, setting a new school record and McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion pool record. Kobayashi's time ranks third in the nation and is the second-fastest time in conference history. She also earned an automatic spot in the NCAA meet. Het teammate Christine Jennings finished third in 16:29.25. The Gophers entered the event third in the team standings. But with five swimmers scoring in the top 16, Minnesota vaulted ahead of Michigan by 10 points into second place to trail only Penn State, 428-396.

The Nittany Lions' Nikki Collins clocked in second at 16:25.25 while her teammates Patty Murphy (16:29.84) and Megan Palera (16:37.10) touched the wall fifth and sixth, repsectively. Finishing fourth was Michigan's Emily Brunemann at 16:29.69 for a provisional qualifying time. The Gophers' Katie Brosseau finished at 16:45.44 followed by Ohio State's Nicole Maglich at 16:42.08 to round out the top eight.

Kaitlyn Brady cliamed her fourth title of the championship, pushing Michigan's total title count to seven. Brady touched the wall almost a full second ahead of the field at 1:56.27, an A-standard qualifying time. The time beat her season-best by eight hundredths of a second. Brady already claimed automatic qualificaitons and first place finishes in the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard butterfly, 400-yard medley relay and 200-yard freestyle relay. She was later awarded Swimmer of the Year and Swimmer of the Championships honors.

"I am just glad I was able to swim well for the team," Brady said. "I knew it was a close race for the team title, so I wanted to swim well and get every point I could."

With Brady's score and her teammate Hannah Smith's points from a sixth-place finish of 2:00.23, the Wolverines closed the gap on second-place Minnesota. They trailed by only six points heading into the 17th event.

Penn State remained in control of first place, stretching the distance to second to 39 points. Erin Morris touched the wall second at 1:57.25 for another A-standard qualifying time followed by Minnesota's Katie Wind and Jennifer Shaughnessy who finished back-to-back. Wind clocked in at 1:58.62 for third while Shaughnessy finished at 1:59.62 for fourth. The Nittany Lions claimed fifth with Sarah Haupt touching in at 2:00.8. Iowa's Kelly Werner (2:00.74) and Jessica Barnes (2:00.91) battled it out in the final seconds before placing seventh and eighth respectively to round out the top eight.

In the 100-yard freestyle, Illinois Barb Viney set a new school record with her 49.12-second first-place finish. Viney grabbed the Illini's first title of the championships, and guaranteed herself a spot at the NCAA meet in March. Northwestern's Andrea Hupman followed her with 49.43 for second. Four-time All-American and defending champion Lindsey smith came in third with a time of 49.43. All three earned A-standard NCAA qualifying marks.

Indiana's Annica Lofstedt nothced a 49.69-finish for fourth followed by Wisconsin's Sara Hernandez at 50.27. Minnesota again placed a pair of swimmers in the top eight. Minnesota's Stacy Busack touched the wall at 50.14 for sixth. The last two spots in the championship final came down to the last inch of the race. Illinois' Meghan Farrell edged Minnesota's Meredith McCarthy by one hundredth of a second, clocking in at 50.27 for seventh. With their scoring duo, the Gophers pulled within 470-464.5 of Penn State in the team standings.

Wisconsin again dominate the breatstroke competition. One night after her teammate Amalia Sarneki claimed the title in the 100-yard event, Badger freshman Yi Ting Siow won the 200-yard edition. Siow clocked a 2:13.09 to automatically qualify for nationals. Sarneki also scored for the Badgers, finishing at 2:18.25 for seventh place. Michigan's Justine Mueller, the 2005 champion, touched the wall second at 2:14.29.

Next came a pair of Nittany Lion freshmen in Abby Hoisington and Kaitlin O'Brien. Hoisington finished at 2:16.61 for third followed exactly one second later by O'Brien for fourth (2:16.71). The duo stretched Penn State's lead over Minnesota to 501-467.5. Rounding out the top eight were Indiana freshman Sara Stockwell (2:17.50) in fifth, Illinois' Marissa Clapp (2:18.17) in sixth and Purdue's Rory Belk (2:18.97) in eigth.

Purdue's Carlene Takaki held the top seed coming into the 2006 conference championships in the 200-yard butterfly, and she carried that honor threw the last stretch of the event. Takaki edged defending champion Gulsah Gunenc of Ohio State to finish first at 1:58.26. Gunenc finished with a time of 1:58.54 for second. Indiana's Kay follwed in third at 1:59.31, barley topping Penn State's Kelly Nelson by one hundredth of a second. Nelson took fourth at 1:59.32. Completing the championship final lineup were the Buckeyes' Griet Buelens at 1:59.82 for fifth followed by Penn State's Karie Haglund (2:00.84), Jenny Gelden of Wisconsin (2:01.65) and Michigan's Payton Johnson (2:02.33).

With two scoring in the championship race, Penn State extended its lead to 538-474.5 in the team standings while Michigan closed in on Minnesota to trail by four and a half points.

Purdue dominated the platform diving portion of the competition, scoring five divers. The Boilermaker's Carrie McCambridge took the field by storm, securing a score of 346.05 for the title. Her teammate Amanda Miller scored 301.15 for fourth, and another Boilermaker, Emily Wetzel, turned in a score of 253.60 for eighth.

Indiana's Christina Loukas placed second with a tally of 312.10 followed by her teammate Lindsay Weigle in third. Heather Chapman, who won the preliminary event earlier in the day, wrapped up the Hoosiers' diving performance with a fifth-place score of 288.95.

Minnesota proved itself as a well-rounded team in the platform diving portion of the competition. The Gophers' Holly Jakits notched a sixth-place score of 279.40 and Erica Schiffler scored 253.60 for seventh. With three scoring divers, including two in the top eight, the Gophers pulled themselves within 33.5 points of Penn State in the team standings. With one event left, however, the margin was still too great for the Gophers to overtake.

Heading into the 400-yard freestyle relay, Penn State looked poised to win its second straight team championship. All the Nittany Lions had to do was finish. The quartet of Nelson, Morris, Biedermann and Haupt did so, turning in a 3:25.45 for 10th place to seal the Nittany Lions second straight conference title.

Indiana's relay squad shocked the field, taking the win in the final stretch. The Hoosiers' crew of Lofstedt, Clarissa Wentworth, Leila Vaziri and Kay finished at 3:19.22 to qualify provisionally for the NCAA meet and give Indiana is first swimming title of the championships.

"It is a bit of a surprise," said Indiana head coach Ray Looze. "We had four good legs. We had a great leadoff and every kid did their job after that. I am extremely proud of our young ladies."

Michigan, who owned the 2005 title, finished second at 3:20.03. The Wolverine group of Brady, Hannah Smith, Abby Seskevics and Lindsey Smith captured the 200-yard earlier in the championships competition. The Gophers' group clocked in next at 3:20.17 for third, but couldn't garner enough points to rock the Penn State trip to the championships crown.