Bloomington, INDIANA - The Big Ten Conference crowned swimming and diving champions during the last two weekends. Competing first in Iowa City, the women deviated from previous years as Ohio State won by nearly 200 points. This past weekend in Bloomington, the men produced many great finishes and a Michigan victory.
Women’s Big Ten Championship
With Michigan entering as the nation’s number-one team, Ohio State needed a massive effort to win the Big Ten Championship. As it turned out, that’s exactly what happened. The scarlet and grey claimed their first championship since 1986. In the years between they had not finished higher than third.
“It took a long time to get to where we are. The sacrifices we’ve made and all the hard work, it’s been fulfilling,” Ohio State coach Bill Dorenkott said.
In addition to shocking their rivals from the north, Ohio State became the first team to surpass the 1,500 point barrier. While the Big Ten transitioned to scoring the bonus final, the Buckeyes inked the largest points share since Minnesota in 2014.
“You didn’t do this with one or two stars. We won this meet with our depth,” Dorenkott said. “That’s what we are built on. Great depth and developing athletes.”
Dorenkott noted the 100 freestyle embodied this. The Buckeyes placed five swimmers in the championship final, claiming 122 points in a single heat. Taking second, Freya Rayner was the highest Ohio State finisher. Michigan’s Maggie MacNeil won, posting a 46.57 and a new Big Ten meet record.
In the dominating performance, Ohio State slid through the Wednesday relay session relatively undetected. Their presence was made known during the Thursday prelims, recording eleven career-best times to qualify all but four swims for the finals session.
In that evening's finals session, the Buckeyes picked up their first event title on the weekend. As the 500 freestyle progressed, all signs pointed to either Michigan’s Kaitlynn Sims or Sierra Schmidt, but Ohio State couldn’t be denied. Senior Kathrin Demler charged from fourth to the lead on the final 50 to win with a 4:37.04, narrowly edging Indiana’s Cassy Jernberg.
Demler stepped in at another key situation. After Michigan took the lead briefly, courtesy of reigning world champion MacNeil and Georgia transfer Olivia Carter claiming the top spots in the 100 butterfly, the Buckeye was tasked with the 400 individual medley. Ohio State took second with Demler and third with Kristen Romano, launching the Buckeyes back to the front. Northwestern junior Calypso Sheridan won with a dominating performance of 4:03.18, contributing to an outstanding performance by the Wildcats.
The Ohio State distance squad wasn’t done. While the leaders held tight in the opening half of the 1650 freestyle, senior Molly Kowal built separation through the back half en route to a 15:43.17 victory. Schmidt and Sims came second and third.
Wisconsin’s Beata Nelson, the American record-holder in the 100 backstroke, defended her title by posting a 49.85. During the prelims, Nelson’s heat was recalled at the start resulting in a long delay before her morning swim. Rutger’s sophomore Terka Grusova swam to second place out of lane one.
The Wisconsin senior came away from Iowa City with two more individual titles. On the road to defending her national championship, Nelson picked up a conference crown in the 200 individual medley with a 1:51.66 and the 200 backstroke in a 1:48.73. Sheridan swam to an automatic qualifying time for the NCAA Championships to take second, jump-starting a strong performance from the Wildcats.
In the breaststrokes, Michigan’s Miranda Tucker finally claimed the 100 after the Lilly King era came to a close. With a 58.15, Tucker edged Indiana’s Emily Weiss and Minnesota’s Lindsey Kozelsky. Sheridan followed up her victory in the 400 individual medley with a comeback win in the 200 breaststroke, out splitting Indiana’s Noelle Peplowski by nearly a second to close the race.
Indiana freshman Cora Dupre swam with the field for 150 yards before blasting a 26.83 last 50 to win the 200 freestyle in 1:43.61. That would be Indiana’s only event title after winning the meet a year ago.
On the one-meter, Ohio State freshman Mackenzie Crawford won with a 320.65, an important win for the Buckeyes. The three-meter diving competition final featured eight different schools, culminating with an Emily Bretscher of Purdue victory. Despite the absence of an on-campus tower, Northwestern’s Markie Hopkins held off a late charge from Purdue’s Maycey Vieta to win the platform competition, locking in the Wildcats’ third victory.
In the relays, Michigan won the 200 medley relay behind the fastest recorded 50 backstroke split by MacNeil. Michigan also won the 400 medley and 400 freestyle relays. In the 800 freestyle relay, Wisconsin shot out of the gates with a 1:44.00 from Lillie Hosack. With multi-time national champion Beata Nelson to anchor, the Badgers won handily. Ohio State’s only relay victory came in the 200 freestyle relay, edging Michigan by .3 after a strong anchor leg from Lucija Jerkovic-Perisa.
Ohio State - 1503.5
Michigan - 1306.5
Indiana - 964
Northwestern - 907.5
Wisconsin - 734
Minnesota - 617
Purdue - 602
Penn State - 517.5
Iowa - 430
Nebraska - 385
Rutgers - 291
Michigan State - 203
Illinois - 193
Men’s Big Ten Championship
With Indiana unable to defend last year’s title or its home pool, Michigan reclaimed the throne after a three-year hiatus.
“They work together and they worked hard,” Michigan coach Mike Bottom said. “It is fun to be celebrating with them.”
While one single swim didn’t stand out, the Wolverines collected numerous individual victories towards an over 200 point victory.
Placing four in the championship final, Michigan claimed the top three spots with senior Felix Auboeck taking gold in a 4:10.14, completing the career four-peat. The Wolverine made a slight separation from his teammates Richardo Vargas and Patrick Callen at halfway before putting up a 23.91 to close the race.
Narrowly missing his own Big Ten meet record, Auboeck dominated the 1650 freestyle with a 14:30.10. Vargas was within striking distance at the 1000 but the defending national champion couldn’t be denied.
The Wolverines notched another 1-2-3 finish in the 400 individual medley behind a relaxed Charlie Swanson with a 3:40.25. Similar to Auboeck, Swanson completed the career four-peat. Tommy Cope, who held second nearly the entire race, was touched out by Vargas. He fought Penn State’s Michael Daly to the final touch.
Four swimmers under 45.75, but it was Michigan senior Miles Smachlo claiming the 100 butterfly in a 45.05, matching the NCAA automatic qualifying standard. Indiana’s Bruno Blaskovic slotted in second after holding the top-seed from prelims. After coming third in the 100 butterfly, Indiana’s Brendan Burns edged Smachlo to win the 200 butterfly in a 1:40.98.
Ohio State’s Andrew Loy, after cruising through a non-circle seeded heat in prelims, dropped a 1:42.03 to win the 200 individual medley. Loy led through the butterfly and backstroke, Cope took over during the breaststroke, only to be caught by Loy and Buckeye teammate Paul Delakis, closing in a 23.85.
Ohio State echoed the performance in the 200 individual medley with the Loy-Delakis duo in the 200 freestyle. Loy won with a 1:31.88 after moving to the lead at the 75 turn. Delakis faded late but didn’t give in to a charge from Indiana’s Mohamed Hassan.
Resilient performances were on display for the Minnesota swimmers that were victims of a shooting incident this summer. An event removed from senior Nick Saulnier taking sixth in the 200 freestyle, teammate Max McHugh won the 100 breaststroke with a 50.67. The time narrowly missed the Big Ten meet record set last year by Indiana’s Ian Finnerty.
After finishing sixth last year, Michigan’s Cope won gold in the 200 breaststroke, edging McHugh and Delakis. Coming down to the final stroke, Delakis opted to glide while Cope shot hard into the wall.
As part of being named the meets top swimmer, Blaskovic, sporting a noticeable beard, swam an 18.97 to win the 50 freestyle, slightly slower than his prelim pool record. Penn State junior Gabriel Castano took second with a 19.06, followed by Semuede Andreis of Ohio State going 19.18. Feeling some pressure from Loy of Ohio State, Blaskovic won the 100 freestyle in a 41.88 as well.
Indiana’s Gabriel Fantoni swam to a 44.92 to win the 100 backstroke. Thanks to a great final underwater, Fantoni collected another victory in the 200 backstroke going 1:40.31. The Hoosier led through the 100 turn, slipping just briefly before closing in a 25.00 to overtake Penn State’s Daly and Wisconsin’s Cam Tysoe.
On the one-meter, Michigan’s Ross Todd and Ohio State’s Lyle Yost battled dive for dive. Despite Yost scoring a 72.00 on a forward two-and-a-half with one-twist, Todd moved to first after dive four then posted a pair of 67s to claim the win by just under six points, 383.60 to 377.75.
On three-meter, Purdue junior Gregory Duncan took over the lead with a third-round reverse 3.5 for 94.5 and never looked back. In addition to the rounds highest single dive score, the Boilermaker closed out the winning round with a final score of 448.20.
On platform, Yost and Purdue’s Benjamin Bramley entered the final round separated by 1.5 points after the Buckeye posted a 91.8 in round five. Remaining for both was an inward 3.5, of which Yost recorded a 57.6 in prelims. He scored 83.2 in finals to wrap up the close win.
Indiana opened the championships with a bang, claiming the 200 medley relay by over a second. Fantoni split 21.17 on backstroke and was aided by a 20.20 split from Burns on the butterfly to extend the lead. Michigan responded in the 800 freestyle relay with a four-second victory. Ohio State’s Delakis led all splits with a 1:31.44.
Indiana won the 200 freestyle relay in 1:16.30, despite strong performances by Ohio State and Michigan to challenge. At the race’s conclusion, the fifth seed Michigan State touchpad did not activate, resulting in some controversy. The Spartans finished eighth.
The Hoosiers dominated the 400 medley relay from the get-go, winning in a 3:02.27. While Indiana led by at-least two body-lengths throughout, Ohio State’s Andrew Loy stormed past Michigan with a 41.35 anchor leg to take second. In the meets final relay, Indiana picked up their fourth title. The 400 freestyle relay was led wire-to-wire by the Hoosiers for a 2:48.13 win.
Michigan - 1548
Ohio State - 1329
Indiana - 1321.5
Wisconsin - 834.5
Northwestern - 665
Iowa - 571
Purdue - 561
Minnesota - 551
Penn State - 531
Michigan State - 309