Gophers are Back-to-Back Big Ten Champions
Feb. 23, 2013
The University of Minnesota women's swimming and diving team made it known from the first day of competition at the Big Ten Championships that it was determined to defend its 2012 Big Ten Championship title, and the Gophers did just that Saturday night at the University Aquatic Center behind a dominating performance that saw them score 831.5 team points.
"It's great, it's a great feeling," head women's coach Terry Neiszner said about the back-to-back titles. "Like we said this year, this is a new team, it's a group of people that have never been together. It's just awesome. Last year was great but we kind of started over this year with new leadership and a lot of young talent with our freshman. It's just been great, a great experience."
Minnesota not only won the 2013 Big Ten Championships title, but did so in convincing fashion with a 160-point margin of victory over second-place Indiana, who notch 671.5 team points. Penn State finished third with 498.5 points, Ohio State was fourth with 384 points and Purdue rounded out the top-five with 363 points.
The Maroon and Gold's 831.5 team points were the most points scored at the Big Ten Championships since 1996, when Michigan totaled 939 points on its way to winning the title. It is also the most points Minnesota has ever scored in the league championships.
"It feels really special and I'm so happy we got to do it in our own pool," Haley Spencer said about the Big Ten title. "I knew it was going to be special and I knew it was going to be something I was going to remember for a long time. To be able to jump into your own diving well and go off of your own 10 meter and to get into your locker room and celebrate with your own teammates; It was really special and I'm really glad that it happened my senior year."
Gopher head coach Kelly Kremer was named the Big Ten Swimming Coach of the Year for the second-consecutive season, while Wenbo Chen was honored as the Big Ten Diving Coach of the Year for the second time in his career.
Maggie Keefer garnered Big Ten Diver of the Championship honors for the second-straight year after claiming titles in both 1-meter and 3-meter diving and placing sixth in platform diving. She was Minnesota's top scorer of the Championships, accounting for 53 of the team's points.
Eight Gophers earned spots on the All-Big Ten First Team, including Tess Behrens, Erin Caflisch, Maggie Keefer, Tori Simenec, Haley Spencer, Lauren Votava, Becca Weiland and Blake Zeiger, while six additional Gophers garnered All-Big Ten Second Team honors, including Sam Harding, Kiera Janzen, Jessica Plant, Kierra Smith, Devin Ste. Marie and Lauren Weis.
Kiera Janzen set the pace for the Gophers on the final day of competition, as she placed second in the 1650 freestyle with a career-best time of 16:04.05. Loren Brandon and Samantha Harding also notched career-best times in the event, finishing in 16:09.55 and 16:15.96, respectively, to place third and fifth overall. Indiana's Lindsay Vrooman won the event with a Big Ten meet record time of 15:51.20.
In the 100 freestyle, freshman Lauren Votava was Minnesota's top finisher, placing fourth with a career-best time of 48.88. Erin Caflisch finished in seventh place for the Gophers (49.14), while Becca Weiland and Blake Zeiger finished 9-10 with times of 49.04 and 49.26.
Haley Spencer cruised to the victory in the 200 breaststroke, defeating the field with a Big Ten, meet and program record time of 2:05.98. The mark was not only a career-best and NCAA automatic qualifying time for the senior, but it was also the third-fastest time in the country this season. Freshman Kierra Smith continued her impressive rookie campaign by notching a second-place finish in the event with a NCAA automatic time of 2:08.56.
Spencer's title in the 200 breast was the ninth overall for the Gophers at this year's B1G Championships and the third-career title in the event for the senior. She also claimed first-place honors in 2010 and 2012. A Gopher has won the 200 breast at the B1G Championships five of the last six years.
Devin Ste. Marie posted a second-place finish in the 200 butterfly, with her time of 1:56.48 marking a career-best for the sophomore, while it is also ranks second on the Gophers' program record chart.
In platform diving, Sarah McCrady and Maggie Keefer notched fourth and sixth place finishes with career-high scores of 332.00 and 317.05, respectively. McCrady's score established a new program record in the event, while Keefer's score ranks second on Minnesota's record chart. Keefer's fourth dive of the event was an impressive one, as the junior posted a pair of 10s.
The swimming events came to a close with the 400 free relay, where the team of Votava, Weiland, Caflisch and Zeiger capped off Minnesota's dominate performance throughout the championships with a new program and meet record time of 3:15.18, a mark that also automatically qualifies the team for the NCAA Championships.
The Gophers will head to the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis, Ind., March 21-23.
Final Team Standings
2013 Big Ten Swimming and Diving Awards
Freshman of the Year
Swimming Coach of the Year
Diving Coach of the Year
Swimmer of the Championships
Diver of the Championships
Second Team All-Big Ten
Big Ten Top Point Scorers