Big Ten Championships Preview

Feb. 20, 2008

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Ohio State University and the McCorkle Aquatic Center will host some of the nation's top aquatic talent at the 2008 Big Ten Women's Swimming & Diving Championships, Feb. 21-23. Five of the conference's 11 squads are ranked among the top 25 in the latest CSCAA poll, including one school in the top 10. Minnesota leads the Big Ten with a No. 9 national ranking, followed by No. 11 Michigan, No. 13 Penn State, No. 19 Indiana and No. 20 Wisconsin.

Looking to improve upon its ninth-place finish from a year ago, Illinois will turn to veterans Kellie Stevens and Marissa Clapp for some quality points in the freestyle, breastroke and backstroke.

Indiana has hopes of repeating as Big Ten Champions as they won last year's event by 153.5 points.  Sophomore Presley Bard won the 200-yard backstroke and garnered runner-up honors in the 100-yard backstroke.  Brittany Feldman, the Hoosiers' top diver, looks to continue Indiana's dominance in the diving events.

The Hawkeyes will seek contributions from freestyle experts Ashley Dell and Christine Kuczek.  Junior Alison Gschwend also looks to up last year's ninth-place team finish as she provides leadership on the Hawkeyes' relay teams.

Looking to add to its conference-best 14 Big Ten titles, Michigan returns many of its key components from last year's second-place squad, including Margaret Kelly and Elyse Lee.  Kelly returns after two second-place finishes in the 100-yard butterfly and the 200-yard individual medley.  Lee garnered runner-up honors at last year's championships off the one-meter board.

Michigan State hopes to avenge last year's 11th-place finish with a strong core of juniors.  Marlys Fuqua and Heather Kiluk will guide the Spartans in the pool while Alycia Mokedanz looks for a podium spot in the diving events. 

Minnesota is set to improve upon last year's fourth-place finish with a crop of talented veterans featuring the 2007's 1,650-yard freestyle champion Yuen Kobayashi and 500-yard freestyle winner Christine Jennings. The Gophers boasted four All-Big Ten first team honorees last season, which tied for second-most of any team.

Northwestern is led by senior Andrea Hupman who placed third and sixth in the 100- and 50-yard freestyle, respectively. Hupman was an All-Big Ten second-team selection, along with sophomores Jenn Kocsis, Kassia Shishkoff and Emily Wrong. 

The one-two punch of Ohio State divers Bianca Alvarez and Chelsea Davis should make for an exciting competition off the boards.  The two have each brought home a pair of Diver of the Week honors this season.  In the pool, senior Linda Lund-Kristiansen stands to make a mark in the freestyle and butterfly events.

Defending champions in the 100-yard breastroke and 400-yard individual medley are Penn State juniors Lyndsey Smith and Kaitlin O'Brien, respectively as they pilot the Nittany Lions this season.  Also looking to aid is breastroke specialist Caitlin Meehan who garnered Big Ten Swimmer of the Week honors earlier this season.

Purdue looks to climb the standings after a sixth-place showing last year.  Sophomore Ashley Karnes is one of the conference's best divers as she has earned three weekly awards this season.  Senior Jennifer Lavers looks to make some noise in the breastroke events after a seventh-place finish in the 100-yard in 2007.

After a placing fifth last season, Wisconsin hopes to improve with a powerful arsenal of swimmers and divers who have picked up a total of five weekly accolades this year.  Upperclassmen Jackie Vavrek, Christine Zwiegers and Jen Illescas along the freshmen Maggie Meyer and Ciara Rinaudo all have the ability to score major points in their respective events for the Badgers.