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2014 Women's Big Ten Championship Fan Guide: Minnesota Looks To Repeat, But Will Be Challenged


by Press Release

 

Last season, Minnesota dominated the Big Ten Championships, topping second-place Indiana by over 150 points. They defended their 2012 title, which was a bit of a closer meet, with running away with it in the 2013.

Over the four-day meet, they captured four of the five relay titles, plus had outstanding divers to back up their performances in the pool. Depth is the name of the game in the Big Ten, and ultimately relays don’t have the weight here that they do at the NCAA level.

Minnesota and Indiana will most likely be in a duel between each other again this season, but some noise from the other teams could possibly make this meet a bit more interesting. Purdue and Wisconsin both have stars in a few events, plus with continued development of Michigan under Mike Bottom and Ohio State looking better all season, these four teams could shake up the team title this weekend.

Stars

IllinoisAllison Meng (junior backstroker), Courtney Pope (senior freestyler), Erica Lynn (senior breaststroker) – The Illini rely on their relays for scoring points, but in their senior seasons Pope and Lynn could step up individually for some points.

IndianaLindsay Vrooman (senior distance freestyler), Brooklyn Snodgrass (sophomore backstroker), Kait Flederbach (senior freestyler), Haley Lips (sophomore freestyler) – Vrooman is by far one of the best distance freestylers in this conference. The Hoosiers are deep in every event, and the addition of Flederbach only helps them in the sprints where they are considered “weak”.

IowaOlivia Kabacinski (sophomore sprinter/breaststroker), Karolina Watalowicz (senior breaststroker), Lindsay Seeman (senior backstroker/freestyler), Becky Stoughton (junior distance freestyler) – Kabacinski plays a big part of the Hawkeyes relays, and after a fairly strong freshman season, she will look to build and lead her team as they continue to build strength within the conference.

MichiganAli Deloof (sophomore backstroker), Angie Chokran (senior breaststroker), Courtney Beidler (senior IM’er) – The Wolverines only have continued to get stronger under the direction of Mike Bottom. They lack the depth the men have, but they are developing some big stars.

Michigan StateSummer Strickler (senior freestyler), Shelby Lacy (junior breaststroker), Sarah Love (freshman butterflyer) – The Spartans have some strong sprinters, and with Strickler swimming faster at Winter Nationals than the TYR invite, the relays could get a bit faster this weekend.

MinnesotaKierra Smith (sophomore breaststroker), Becca Weiland (junior sprint freestyler/butterflier), Kiera Janzen (junior distance freestyler), Tess Behrens (senior freestyler/backstroker), Tori Simenec (junior freestyler/IM’er), Margaret Keefer (senior diver) – It’s very hard to pick just a few stars out of this roster. Minnesota is deep; deep enough to be a top ten team at NCAA’s pending them hitting their tapers again in March.

NebraskaTaryn Collura (junior sprinter), Shannon Guy (senior butterflier), Jacqueline Juffer (sophomore backstroker), Natalie Morris (junior butterflier) – Nebraska finished ninth last year, a big improvement from the 11th place in 2012. They’ve had another strong season, and will look to be inside the top ten again this year.

NorthwesternLauren Abruzzo (freshman freestyler), Lacey Locke (freshman backstroker), Julianne Kurke (sophomore breaststroker) – The youth is what is promising for Northwestern. The freshman have come in big this year, posting great times and could punch tickets to NCAA’s in March.

Ohio StateAlex Norris (senior freestyler), Michelle Williams (senior sprint freestyler), Taylor Vargo (freshman breaststroker), Annie Jongekrijg (sophomore freestyler), Aliena Schmidtke (junior butterflier/freestyelr) – The Buckeyes have come a far away in a year, while last year was a bit disappointing, this team has continued to grow and stay tough in duel meets. Their freestylers are dangerous; their 400 freestyle relay could put up a top five time in the country this weekend.

Penn StateAlyson Ackman (sophomore freestyler), Gabi Shishkoff (senior freestyler), Mackenzie Powers (senior backstroker), – Penn State had a lot of graduations last season, plus they got a new coaching staff. They have put up some good times this season, and are seeded well across the board.

Purdue Carly Mercer (senior sprint freestyler), Rhi Sheets (junior freestyler/butterflier), Francesca Marr (junior breaststroker) – The Boilermakers had only one duel meet loss all season, against in-state foe Indiana. Mercer will be a big player this weekend, individually and on relays.

WisconsinIvy Martin (junior sprint freestyler), Rebecka Palm (senior butterflier), Anna Meinholz (sophomore breaststroker), Aja van Hout (junior IM’er) – Martin leads a small group of stars within the conference. But man, is that small group powerful on the conference stage.

Showdowns

500 Freestyle – I can’t wait to see Minnestoa’s Kiera Janzen and Indiana’s Lindsay Vrooman show down again at Big Tens. Their 500 free battle last year destroyed anything we’ve seen in that race in this conference before. The two of them threw down 4:35’s last year, and they’ve been 4:40 and 4:38 already this season. We’ll have to wait and see if Vrooman can defend her title or if Janzen will grab it with the momentum from her outstanding summer season.

100 Breaststroke – There are four swimmers from four different universities who could take this event. Indiana’s Bronwyn Pasloski, Minnesota’s Kierra Smith, Michigan’s Angie Chokran and Wisconsin’s Anna Meinholz are all within a second of each other. The defending champion and runner-up both have graduated, opening up this event for the taking. Pasloski, Smith and Chokran were in the final last season, and Meinholz took the B final, so they all bring experience to the table.

200 Individual Medley – The top seven times thus far this season are all below the 2:00 mark. Minnesota’s Tori Simenec is the returning champion, but she will have her hands full in repeating. Her teammate Smith has made big improvements, swimming a 1:57 already this season, after finishing 10th last season. Add Penn State’s Chelsea Weedman, Michigan’s Courtney Beidler & Mami Oldershaw to the mix, and it may take a B1G record to win the event.

200 Butterfly – The Big Ten continues to show great depth in this event. Just looking at the top 10 times report, all 10 times this season was 1:58 or better. Ohio State Shannon Draves has graduated, opening this event up for a new champion. Indiana’s Brenna Maclean has been solid this year and is faster than anyone in this event this season by a second. It could come down to an Indiana – Minnesota show down in the last individual event of the weekend.

Standings

These selections were compiled from across SwimSwam’s staff, without input from Amanda Smith.

The Indiana Hoosiers and the Minnesota Golden Gophers are developing quite a rivalry in the women’s Big Ten side. Minnesota has won two in a row after Indiana won the prior three. We’ve spoken to athletes and coaches on both sides, and both expect it to be an extremely close meet, with their team coming out on top.

We’re leaning toward the Minnesota three-peat, and in a twist, it could be the Gopher divers who give them the edge at this one. The Hoosiers have opted to use Brooklyn Snodgrass in 5 relays and only two individual events, which points-wise is going to hurt them a little, if it comes down to 10 or fewer at the end of the meet. Expect the margin, at least, to be much tighter than the 160-point rout from last season.

Beyond those two at the top, there’s a little bit of separation to the next group. With a lot of graduations for Penn St. and Ohio St., those two teams should come back to the field quite a bit, and the 2-7 spots will be a battle that could swing any which way. In year 2 under Mike Bottom, though, we like the Michigan women to put things together with some high-impact freshmen.

  1. Minnesota
  2. Indiana
  3. Michigan
  4. Ohio St.
  5. Penn St.
  6. Wisconsin
  7. Purdue
  8. Nebraska
  9. Iowa
  10. Northwestern
  11. Illinois
  12. Michigan State