The No. 21 University of Minnesota swimming and diving team won the 800 yard freestyle relay to pave the way for the Gophers at the 2007 Big Ten championships today at the University Aquatic Center. The Gophers are currently in fourth place with 307 total points. Indiana is the leader after the second day of competition with 453.5 points, followed by Penn State (387.5) and Michigan (378) in second and third. Wisconsin rounds out the top five with 305.5 points.
Minnesota’s 800 yard free relay won a Big Ten title for the second year in a row. The all-sophomore team of Yuen Kobayashi (Osaka, Japan), Meredith McCarthy (The Woodlands, Texas), Jenny Shaughnessy (Rochester, Minn.) and Christine Jennings (Longmont, Colo.) touched the wall in 7:11.87, easily defeating Northwestern with a second-place time of 7:13.92.
“I’m really happy with the win,” co-head coach Kelly Kremer said. “These four are all sophomores, and we are defending champions. It was an important relay for our team. We did a nice job with this whole session, but I think this is a tribute to how tough and resilient our team is. These four did a really nice job of getting us going.”
Kobayashi finished the highest of any Minnesota swimmer on the day by placing second in the 200 yard freestyle with a season-best time of 1:47.69. McCarthy and Jennings also qualified for the 200 free finals, placing fifth and seventh respectively with times of 1:48.77 and 1:49.49, respectively. The Gophers scored 43 total points in the event. Senior Lindsey Smith of Michigan won the 200 free for the fourth straight year with a time of 1:46.21.
Senior Jennifer Hasling (Blaine, Minn.) placed fourth in the 100 yard back with a time of 55.08 to improve on her 10th place finish from 2006. Teammate Roxane Akradi (Eagan, Minn.) finished in sixth place in 55.43. Freshman Deidre DeWall (Freeport, Ill.) qualified for the consolation finals, finishing 11th overall with a time of 55.79.
Shaughnessy also placed sixth in the finals of the 400 yard IM with a time of 4:18.57. Kaitlin O’Brien of Penn State won the event, finishing with a time of 4:14.60.
Minnesota did not have anyone qualify for the finals of the 100 yard breaststroke, but Kim Kazika (Prior Lake, Minn.) and Erika Bjorklund (Eden Prairie, Minn.) both qualified for the consolation finals. Kazika placed 12th overall with a time of 1:04.11, and Bjorklund placed 16th in 1:05.07. Other consolation finishers for Minnesota were Kait Strickland in the 400 IM (4:21.12, 14th overall), Erin O’Neil in the 200 free (1:49.63, 12th overall) and Jennifer Chang in the 100 fly (55.66, 12th overall).
In the 3-meter diving competition, Alexandra Barstad (Eden Prairie, Minn.) was the highest Gophers placer, finishing in 16th with a score of 256.85. Sophomore Brianna Hubbard (Stacy, Minn.) placed 17th with a score of 256.50 to just missed scoring points for the Gophers. Christina Loukas of Indiana won the event with a score of 387.95 after finishing in first in the 1 meter diving competition yesterday.
The Gophers were one of three teams that were disqualified in the 200 medley relay to start the evening, including Michigan, who had won the event but were disqualified for an early exchange.
The 2007 Big Ten Championships will conclude tomorrow with preliminaries beginning at 11 a.m. and event finals scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Events contested will be the 1650 freestyle, 200 backstroke, 100 freestyle, 200 breaststroke, 200 butterfly, 400 freestyle relay and platform diving.