IOWA CITY - College swimming deepest conference takes to competition over the next two weeks to crown Big Ten swimming and diving champions. Starting with the women hosted at the University of Iowa and following with the men at Indiana University, the conference championships are poised to feature outstanding races, breathtaking finishes, and high-flying scores before the competitions are over.
Women’s Big Ten Swimming & Diving Championships - Iowa City, Iowa
The top-ranked Michigan Wolverines converge on Iowa City with an arsenal ready to claim relay titles in five events en route to avenging a second-place team finish a year ago. Despite falling to California at the mid-season Minnesota Invitational, Michigan swept through their regular-season schedule.
Entering the championships, the Wolverines will rely heavily on star-sophomore Maggie MacNeil to defend her titles in the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly. Last year, she swam the 100 backstroke but ranks as the conferences best in the 100 freestyle as well. MacNeil is a near-lock in whatever events she opts to tackle this year.
Two current Big Ten swimmers hold the fastest times in history for their respective events. MacNeil shares the U.S. Open record in the 100 butterfly at 49.26 from the Minnesota Invitational. Wisconsin senior Beata Nelson occupies the 100 backstroke record, set at the NCAA Championships last year. Nelson is the favorite in the 100 and 200 backstrokes, along with the 200 individual medley.
There is a bit of parity among the middle-distance and distance races. In the 200 freestyle, Iowa senior Hannah Burvill dropped a 1:44.92 in November that remains the conference’s top-time. After finishing fifth last year, she enters as the favorite. Ohio State’s Kathrin Demler, along with a pair of Wolverines, will battle in a tight 500 freestyle. That same pair, Kaitlynn Sims and Sierra Schmidt have already established the automatic qualifying standard for the 1650 freestyle.
Michigan’s Miranda Tucker leads the field in both breaststroke events, albeit feeling some pressure from Minnesota’s Lindsey Kozelsky in the 100 breaststroke. While MacNeil has the 100 butterfly locked up, the 200 butterfly presents a battle between defending champion Demler and former champion Vanessa Krause of Michigan. Minnesota senior Tevyn Waddell is another former champion looking for a strong performance in her events.
On the one-meter springboard, Iowa junior Jayah Mathews and Minnesota sophomore Joy Zhu have averaged nearly identical dive scores throughout the season. A pair of Boilermakers, junior Emily Bretscher and senior Emily Meaney lead on three-meter and platform diving respectively.
While the traditional powers will surely perform well with Michigan leading the way, expect Northwestern to have a strong showing behind second-year coach head coach Jeremy Kipp. Finishing seventh last year, the Wildcats, Gophers, and Badgers will battle to claim fourth place.
Big Ten Names to Watch:
Beata Nelson, Wisconsin
Maggie MacNeil, Michigan
Emily Bretscher, Purdue
Jayah Mathews, Iowa
Kathrin Demler, Ohio State
Miranda Tucker, Michigan
Cora Dupre, Indiana
Sierra Schmidt, Michigan
Calypso Sheridan, Northwestern
Kaitlynn Sims, Michigan
Men’s Big Ten Swimming & Diving Championships - Bloomington, Indiana
To this point, the battle between Michigan and Indiana could be left to a coin flip. In November, the defending champion Hoosiers claimed a victory at home before falling to the Wolverines in January in Ann Arbor.
No races optimize the battle between Michigan and Indiana like the 400 medley relay, 200 freestyle relay, and 100 butterfly, all of which will produce highlight real races at the championships. On aggregate, the two are separated by .02 in the medley relay and .11 in the freestyle relay. Indiana’s Brendan Burns leads the 100 butterfly by a narrow .03 over Miles Smachlo of Michigan, despite having lost to Smachlo twice already this season. They are set to meet in the 200 butterfly as well.
Besides three breaststrokers, Jeremy Babinet and Tommy Cope of Michigan along with Max McHugh of Minnesota, no other swimmers have acquired the automatic qualifying standard for the NCAA Championships. Between the three, McHugh is the favorite to claim both breaststroke races.
Michigan’s Gus Borges and Indiana’s Bruno Blaskovic are slated to claim the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle respectively. Both fell short a year ago, setting up an anticipated battle in the sprints. With those, however, it is anyone’s race. Penn State’s William Roberson or Iowa’s Aleksey Tarasenko look to play spoiler.
Michigan’s defending national champion Felix Auböck is the favorite to win the 1650 freestyle and his teammate Patrick Callan will be top-seed in the 500 freestyle and 200 freestyle. Indiana’s Michael Calvillo and Mohamed Hassan are shooting to break up the Wolverines hold on the middle-distance and distance events.
In diving, look for a strong performance from Purdue. Junior Greg Duncan leads the way on both springboards and sophomore Ben Bramley has the best average dive score on platform. Don’t count out the divers from Ohio State that stack the rankings behind the Boilermakers.
The team race will be one for the ages between Michigan and Indiana. Behind them, Ohio State is in a position to hold serve in the third spot. After that, it gets dicey. Iowa, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin will be vying to take home fourth.
Big Ten Names to Watch:
Felix Auböck, Michigan
Tommy Cope, Michigan
Greg Duncan, Purdue
Brendan Burns, Indiana
Miles Smachlo, Michigan
Patrick Callan, Michigan
Mohamed Hassan, Indiana
Paul Delakis, Ohio State
Jacob Steele, Indiana
Max McHugh, Minnesota