Women¡¯s Swimming & Diving Finishes Third at Big Ten Championships
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.; February 10, 2007 - Penn State¡¯s swimmers picked up chunks of points in five out of the six swimming finals held on the Saturday night but Indiana did the same and also picked up points in the platform diving, which Penn State does not compete in, all of which added up to Penn State finishing third to the Hoosiers and to second place Michigan at the 2007 Big Ten Women¡¯s Swimming and Diving Championships.
While Penn State¡¯s two-year run as conference champions ends, the Nittany Lions have now finished in the top three at Big Ten¡¯s now for seven straight years, which includes three championships, two second places finishes and two third place finishes since the 2001 championships.
The Nittany Lions¡¯ total of 537.5 points was only 14.5 points fewer than they scored at last year¡¯s meet. Penn State finished the meet by scoring points in 17 out of the 21 total events contested, one more than last year. There were fewer points scored by the four teams at the bottom of the standings, however, and those points ultimately went to the top two teams in Indiana and Michigan. The Hoosiers ran away with the title with 715.5 points while Michigan just edged out Penn State for second with 562 points. Penn State topped fourth place Minnesota by a healthy margin, 537.5-442.
Nikki Collins led the way for Penn State on Saturday night as she swam to an NCAA ¡®A¡¯ automatic qualifying time of 16:19.56 to finish fourth in the 1650 freestyle. She was one of four Nittany Lions to score points in the 1650 free, continuing the tradition of strong distance swimming for the Nittany Lions at these Big Ten championships. Five different swimmers scored points in the 500 free on Thursday night. Claire Hawley followed Collins in sixth place in 16:29.48, improving her previous ¡®B¡¯ time by over 15 seconds. Sarah Baker finished 12th in 16:50.10 to earn her first ¡®B¡¯ cut of the year in the 1650 while Jaime Keily finished in the points wit ha 16th place finish in 16:59.16.
After gaining on the Hoosiers with their showing in the 1650, Indiana got that momentum back as three out of the top four finishers in the 200 backstroke were from Indiana. Daphne Skelos was the top Penn State finisher in the 200 back as she placed sixth in 1:58.37. Erin Morris led the way in the ¡®B¡¯ final as she finished ninth in 1:59.47, improving by over a second from her prelim time. Jessica Barnes finished 14th in 2:01.17.
Michelle Myers picked up points for Penn State with a 15th place finish in the 100 free. Just as she did in the 50 free back on Thursday, she scored points in an event that the Nittany Lions did not score in last year.
Penn State had three swimmers score in the ¡®A¡¯ final of the 200 breaststroke. Caitlin Meehan led the way with a fifth place finish to wrap up a strong championship for her as she placed in the top eight of both breaststroke events. Kaitlin O¡¯Brien added a sixth place finish in the 200 breast to her 400 IM championship from last night while Clare Clemens finished eighth. Abby Hoisington swam her best time of the year of 2:17.39 to finished 10th in the ¡®B¡¯ final while Lyndsey Smith, last night¡¯s 100 breast champion, finished 12th in 2:18.48.
In the 200 butterfly, the three ¡°K¡¯s¡±, Kailey Morris, Kelly Nelson and Karie Haglund, finished fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, all in NCAA ¡®B¡¯ cuts although Nelson and Haglund already own previous ¡®A¡¯ cuts and Morris has a previous better ¡®B¡¯ cut. With that, Haglund kept alive her streak of swimming at least a ¡®B¡¯ cut in every swim this year in the 200 fly.
The 400 freestyle relay team of Barnes, Nelson, Myers and Crispell was disqualified, missing out on an opportunity to keep the Nittany Lions in second place. The no points picked up for the 400 free relay dropped Penn State to third to finish the championships while Michigan won the relay to leapfrog the Lions into the second.
Over the three-day championships, Penn State swam a total of 27 new NCAA cuts, one new ¡®A¡¯ cut and 26 new ¡®B¡¯ cuts. They now have a total of 55 NCAA cuts, four ¡®A¡¯¡¯s and 52 ¡®B¡¯¡¯s. Two divers have also qualified for the NCAA Zone A meet. A select group of swimmers that are still looking to make additional NCAA cuts will travel to a Last Chance Meet at a site to be determined next weekend. The NCAA Women¡¯s Swimming and Diving Championships will be held March 8-10 also at the University of Minnesota.
At the conclusion of the championships, both Kaitlin O¡¯Brien and Lyndsey Smith were named to the All-Big Ten first team after their individual titles on Friday night. It is O¡¯Brien¡¯s second straight first team all-conference award.