Nittany Lions Advance 11 to Finals on Day One of Big Ten Championships
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.; February 8, 2007 - The Penn State women¡¯s swimming and diving team advanced 11 total swimmers to tonight¡¯s finals of three different events on the first session on the first day of the Big Ten Women¡¯s Swimming and Diving Championships. Five different swimmers advanced to the finals of both the 500 freestyle and 200 IM, which are two of Penn State¡¯s strongest events, and a total of seven new NCAA ¡®B¡¯ provisional qualifying times were made in Thursday morning¡¯s preliminary heats.
In the 500 free, five different Nittany Lions swam to new NCAA ¡®B¡¯ qualifying times, including three that did not even finish in the top 16 of the prelims to automatically advance to the finals. Claire Hawley and Jessica Barnes led the way for Penn State by finishing sixth and seventh, respectively, to advance to the ¡®A¡¯ group of the finals. Hawley improved her previous ¡®B¡¯ cut and lowered it to 4:48.17, ov er two and a half seconds better than her previous best time of the year. Barnes swam her best time of the year in the 500 and her first ¡®B¡¯ cut of the year.
Nikki Collins finished ninth in 4:49.16, just .08 of a second out of eighth place and the ¡®A¡¯ group of the finals. Sarah Baker, seeing her first Big Ten Championships action after missing the conference meet last year as a freshman, swam her fastest time of the year in a ¡®B¡¯ cut time of 4:50.48 to finish 12th and Kailey Morris knocked over a half-second off her best time as well to finish 13th in 4:51.30 and give the Lions three swimmers in the ¡®B¡¯ group of the finals. The five swimmers in the finals of tonight¡¯s 500 free is the most of any school, as the next most is three by both Michigan and Wisconsin.
Jaime Keily will be the first alternate in the event any of the top 16 pull out of the finals. Keily placed 17th, just .20 of a second out of 16th place in her first ¡®B¡¯ time of the year of 4:52.59. Molly Crispell and Erin Morris each swam ¡®B¡¯ times as well but will not advance to the finals. The time is Crispell¡¯s fifth ¡®B¡¯ cut of the year, second in an individual event, and the ¡®B¡¯ cut is the first of the year for Morris, who is a three-time NCAA qualifier.
In the 200 IM, Penn State¡¯s five swimmers advancing to the finals were also a team-high out of the 11 schools at the meet, with Indiana¡¯s four being the next most for the 200 IM finals. All five of Penn State¡¯s finals qualifiers swam their fastest times of the year in the 200 IM, four of them lowered their ¡®B¡¯ cuts in doing so and the fifth, Megan Palera, who is also a three-time NCAA qualifier, swam her first ¡®B¡¯ time of the year in the 200 IM and her second of the year overall. Karie Haglund led the way with a third place finish in 2:00.84, just .32 of a second off an ¡®A¡¯ cut. Kaitlin O¡¯Brien will join Haglund in the ¡®A¡¯ group of the finals as she finished fifth in 2:01.35.
Kelly Nelson placed ninth, just .03 of a second out of eighth and the ¡®A¡¯ final in 2:02.59. Daphne Skelos was just .01 of a second behind her in 10th and Palera rounded out the Nittany Lions advancing to the 200 IM finals with a 12th place finish in 2:02.88.
Michelle Myers picked up the seventh NCAA ¡®B¡¯ cut of the morning session for Penn State as she was the only Nitttany Lion to advance to the finals of the 50 free as she finished 13th in :23.34. Myers will make it one more swimmer in the finals of the 50 free than last year for Penn State, which even though it won its second straight conference title last year, did not have any swimmers advance to the 50 free finals. It was the sixth ¡®B¡¯ cut of the year for Myers, three in individual events and three in relays. Genie Cheng will be the second alternate as she finished 18th in a career-best time of :23.46.
Tonight¡¯s finals will begin at 8:00 p.m. (eastern time) and will begin with the 200 freestyle relay, followed by the 500 free, 200 IM, 50 free and the one-meter diving. The night will finish with the 400 medley relay.