Sophomore freestyler Christine Jennings (Longmont, Colo.) won the 500-yard freestyle event when she touched the wall a time of 4:43.74 to lead the No. 21 University of Minnesota women’s swimming and diving team to a strong start at the 2007 Big Ten Championships, today, at the University Aquatic Center. The Gophers hold 150 points and are in third place, while Michigan holds the lead with 215 points, followed by Indiana with 188.5. Penn State is fourth with 144.5 points, while Wisconsin rounds out the top five with 118.5 points.
Along with Jennings, sophomore freestyler Yuen Kobayashi (Osaka, Japan) earned a season-best time of 4:44.31 to place second in the event to give Minnesota 37 points in one just event. Jennings bettered her prelim time of 4:47.40 to earn her first Big Ten event in her short career. With her time, Jennings automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships, also held at the University Aquatic Center on March, 8-10.
“I definitely kicked it in the last 100 yards," Jennings said. "I saw that I had a change [to win] and I took it. I love racing and bringing it home really fast. If its you and me coming down the homestretch and I’m feeling pretty decent, I’ll beat you. I just love winning. That’s a really fun event to swim with Yuen. Our goal is to swim together and hopefully get a 1-2. We’re teammates and that’s kind of our thing in the 500; to be that 1-2 punch and do it for the team.”
Minnesota’s 200 free relay also excelled today when the relay of Stacy Busack (Fergus Falls, Minn.), Jennifer Hasling (Blaine, Minn.), Erin Holtmeyer (Omaha, Neb.) and Roxane Akradi (Eagan, Minn.) combined for a school record in 1:31.12. The foursome shattered last year’s school record when they clocked a time of 1:31.18 in 2005 when Busack, former Gopher Sarah Perrott, Hasling and Holtmeyer achieved the feat. Since the start of her career, Hasling has been a member of the record-breaking 200 free relay three times, accomplishing a school record in 2004, 2006 and now in 2007, all of which occurred at the Big Ten Championships.
Minnesota qualified two in the 50 free championship final in Busack and Hasling. The duo finished fourth and fifth in the event, with Busack clocking a time of 22.84, while Hasling added a time of 22.95. Busack automatically qualified in the 50 free when she chipped in a time of 22.75 during the preliminary heats. It was the first 50-free A Final Hasling qualified in her career.
Although Minnesota didn’t qualify anyone in the 200 individual medley championship final, the Gophers placed two in the consolation final with both finishing in the top two spots. Jenny Shaughnessy (Rochester, Minn.) clocked a time of 2:02.10 to place ninth overall, while Deidre DeWall (Freeport, Ill.) added a time of 2:02.17 for 10th place in the first Big Ten meet of her career.
The Gophers completed the night with a fifth-place showing in the 400 medley relay. Akradi, Erika Bjorklund (Eden Prairie, Minn.), Jennifer Chang (Fort Wayne, Ind.) and Meredith McCarthy (The Woodlands, Texas) combined for a time of 3:43.63 and provisionally qualified for the NCAA Championships. The Gophers’ 400 medley relay shaved off over three seconds from last year’s time and moved up three spots after an eighth-place finish a year ago.
In 1-meter diving action, Minnesota finished 13th, 14th and 16th overall. Brianna Hubbard (Stacy, Minn.), recorded a six-dive score of 249.45, while Alexandra Barstad (Eden Prairie, Minn.) placed 14th in a score of 248.15. Jacqueline Schroeder (Minneapolis, Minn.) placed 16th with a score of 237.80.
Minnesota will continue action tomorrow with prelims starting at 11 a.m. Events contested in the second of the three-day tournament will be the 200 medley relay (finals only), the 400 IM, the 100 fly, the 200 free, the 100 breast, the 100 back, the 3-meter diving and the 800 free relay.