Minnesota takes fourth at Big Tens

Yuen Kobayashi won the 1,650-yard freestyle for the second straight year.

Krista Theis

The Minnesota women’s swimming and diving team walked away from this year’s Big Ten Championships with new school records, Big Ten titles and a few invitations to the NCAA Championships.

The 21st-ranked Gophers finished the three-day event in fourth place behind No. 8 Indiana, No. 10 Michigan and No. 15 Penn State. They did, however, beat unranked Purdue, Northwestern and Ohio State, which coach Kelly Kremer thought would be their biggest competition for fifth place.

“Going into the meet I thought it was going to be really hard to place above fifth just because of the teams that were in front of us,” Kremer said. “But when everything was said and done I was really, really pleased that we were able to finish in fourth place.”

Kremer said he also thinks it will put the Gophers in a position to have more people go to the NCAA Championship meet than they originally thought.

Along with the overall team success, Minnesota had quite a few impressive individual performances.

During Thursday’s preliminaries, sophomore Stacy Busack automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 22.75.

Later, sophomore Erin Holtmeyer, junior Roxane Akradi and senior Jennifer Hasling joined Busack in claiming a new school record in the 200-yard freestyle relay when they touched the wall in 1:31.12.

Sophomore Christine Jennings took home her first Big Ten title this weekend when she won the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:43.74. Her time also qualified her for the NCAA Championship meet in March.

Kremer said he was proud of Jennings’ performance at the Big Ten meet.

“That was her first individual championship and that was a really important swim for her and the team,” Kremer said. “She was one of our two individual Big Ten champions and did an outstanding job for us.”

Right behind Jennings in the event was sophomore Yuen Kobayashi who took second with her season-best time of 4:44.31.

Jennings said she enjoys racing her teammate because they push each other.

“That’s a really fun event to swim with Yuen,” she said. “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.”

Kobayashi later had success when she won the 1,650-yard freestyle, breaking her own school record and setting a personal best time of 16:08.59. Kobayashi won the event last year and was excited to be able to defend her title.

“It feels great,” she said. “It has been a rough meet for me, so I just came in here and did what I could. It is great to have a gold medal.”

The Gophers’ 800-yard freestyle relay of sophomores Kobayashi, Jennings, Meredith McCarthy and Jenny Shaughnessy also took home a title and guaranteed themselves spots at the NCAA Championships with a time of 7:11.87.

Kremer said he was looking forward to this event and knew the women would do well.

“Our 800 free relay really did an outstanding job on the second night by defending their title,” Kremer said. “That was certainly one of the highlights of the meet for our team.”

In platform diving action Minnesota was lead by senior captain Holly Jakits. Jakits placed fifth overall adding 14 more points to the team total.

At the conclusion of the meet, the All-Big Ten First Team was announced and it included four Gophers swimmers.

Kobayashi was named to the team for the second year after her performance in the 1,650-yard freestyle and 800-yard freestyle relay. Jennings was honored for the 500-yard freestyle and 800-yard freestyle relay. McCarthy and Shaughnessy rounded up the list as a part of the 800-yard freestyle relay.