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Feb. 20, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; February 20, 2013-- Penn State had been knocking on the door of the automatic qualifying marks for the NCAA Championships all season and on the opening night of the Big Ten Championships at Minnesota's University Aquatic Center they achieved their first NCAA A Cut time of the season.
The 200 medley relay opened the championships and after the water settled it will probably be one of the most competitive races of the weekend. Six schools finished within one second of one another, led by host Minnesota in 1:36.89. The Penn State quartet of Mackenzie Powers (Sycamore, Ill.), Merritt Krawczyk (Kingwood, Texas), Carolyn Fittin (Sea Grit, N.J.) and Paige Whitmire (Lederach, Pa.) clocking a school record 1:37.97 to finish fifth. The time bested the mark set by Samantha Palser, Krawczyk, Powers and Whitmire at last seasons NCAA Championships and accounted for the first NCAA A Cut, or automatic qualifying time, of the season for the Nittany Lions.
The second and final event of the opening day of the championships was the longest relay on the program. The 800 freestyle relay team of Alyson Ackman (Montreal, Quebec), Kaitlin Jones (Midlothain, Va.), Caitlyn Karr (Reading, Pa,) and Gabi Shishkoff (Franklin, Mass.) nearly pulled off another school record effort but touched the wall just shy of their mark set earlier this season. Their time of 7:08.97 was an NCAA B Cut time and good enough for a fourth place showing.
Minnesota and Indiana are tied atop the team standings with 74 points each and Penn State is sitting in third with 58 points. In fourth, Michigan and Ohio State are knotted at 56 points, followed by Wisconsin (54 pts), Purdue (50 pts) and Nebraska (42 pts). Northwestern and Iowa are tied in ninth place with 36 points each and Illinois is deadlocked with Michigan State in 11th place with 22 points.
Tomorrow's events will feature the 200 freestyle relay, 500 freestyle, 200 IM and 50 freestyle, with Penn State owning a title contender in each event. Ackman enters the 500 free as the top seed in the event, while the Lions own the second, third and fourth fastest qualifiers in the 200 IM. Whitmire is the second fastest 50 freestyler in the Big Ten this season and the 200 freestyle relay squad has the third fastest qualifying time in the conference this season.
The festivities at the Big Ten Championships continue on Thursday, Feb. 21with competition starting at Noon ET with preliminary heats, while finals will begin at 7:30 p.m. ET.