Split second decides contest

Brian Stensaas

INDIANAPOLIS — In the past two years, there’s only one thing faster than the margin of victory in the women’s 100-yard butterfly at the Big Ten championships:
The speed of light.
Or, at least it seems that way.
Minnesota’s Terri Jashinsky and Wisconsin’s Gina Panighetti both know the thrill and the agony of losing a very, very close race.
Friday evening at the IUPUI Natatorium, Jashinsky stepped to the starting blocks of the 100 butterfly knowing she had the mental edge by turning in the fastest preliminary time. She touched the wall two-tenths of a second before Panighetti in the morning session.
One lane over, the Badger was reliving last year over and over in her head.
At the 1999 Big Ten championships in Minneapolis, Jashinsky edged Panighetti 54.43 to 54.44 in the final, winning her first Big Ten championship and mowing the path for a 1-3-5 finish in an event that nabbed 53 points for the Gophers.
This time, it was just as close.
Both started quickly, within four-tenths of each other at the 50-yard mark, Panighetti out in front. Jashinsky turned in the faster of the second 50 yards, but in the end, it was an all-to-close result: Panighetti by one-tenth of a second, 54.58-54.59.
“It almost comes down to who cut their fingernails and who didn’t,” Wisconsin coach Eric Hansen said. “It’s that close. It says a lot about both of them, it’s a great situation for both of them.”
Hansen, who is in his first year as head coach for the Badgers and did not see last year’s close finish, also said the two have respect for one another.
“I don’t think there’s any hard feelings from either of them,” he said. “They both are just great competitors and great athletes.”
One big difference in the races is that Minnesota is a butterfly team, and Wisconsin has Panighetti. That’s about it.
As in 1999, this year’s butterfly events were key for the Gophers, who also had Jenny Hennen and Andrea Simakova in the mix. But at the finish line of the 100, Jashinsky and Panighetti will long be remembered for the razor-thin finish.
“It was a really tough loss, but I had a decent time,” Jashinsky said. “It is kind of cool, I’ll remember it forever. It would have been better if I won again, but that’s OK.”
Panighetti beat the Gophers in the 200 butterfly, raced Saturday. Northwestern’s Merritt Adams won followed by Panighetti, with Hennen taking third, beating Jashinsky by just over two-tenths of a second.
Both Panighetti and Jashinsky will most likely show their stuff at the NCAA meet next month back at the IUPUI Natatorium.
Last year, they earned honorable mention All-American status in the 100 fly at the NCAA event. Panighetti finished 10th in a time of 54.04 while Jashinsky was 13th finishing in 54.76.
Eyes will be on the two for another close finish.

Brian Stensaas covers swimming and diving and welcomes comments at [email protected]