Women finish sixth at Big Ten meet in Bloomington

Only two Gophers finished in the top five of any event in the four-day tournament.

Matt Perkins

Minnesota’s women’s swimming and diving team finished the Big Ten season right where it began Saturday – in the middle of the pack.

Aiming for a top-five conference finish, the Gophers now have their sights set on next season after completing competition in this year’s Big Ten Championships in Bloomington, Ind.

The Gophers finished sixth out of 11 teams. As a team and as individuals, the Gophers struggled to place in the top five in any of the four days of competition that started Wednesday.

“Sixth place is where we belong,” co-coach Kelly Kremer said. “A fourth-place finish would mean we would have had to swim perfect and get some help from the other teams. We earned sixth place.”

Penn State dominated the tournament with 693 team points, which was 196 more points than second-place Indiana.

With only two team members finishing higher than sixth – Jessica Livingston was second in platform diving, and Julia Quinn was fourth in the 200-yard breaststroke – the Gophers failed to achieve individual expectations.

But junior freestyle specialist Kate Hardt highlighted a list of Gophers who achieved personal bests at this year’s tournament.

Hardt set personal best times in the 200 (1:48.38) and 500 (4:49.11) freestyle, while finishing sixth and eighth in the events, respectively.

Kremer said he was amazed by her performance.

“(She) has been carrying us all year, and she did another outstanding job here,” he said.

Also accomplishing a personal-best time was Katie Wind, who finished one-tenth of a second away from setting a new school record in the 200 backstroke with a 1:59.72. But again, the accomplishment won her a mere seventh-place finish.

Livingston’s performance showed that freshmen can perform early and often, transitioning nicely into what the Gophers hope to accomplish starting next year.

“Being a freshman, I really didn’t have many expectations coming into the season,” Livingston said. “But I am very happy with how well I did.”

The team is already starting to look forward to next season with one of the best recruiting classes the team has seen in years, Kremer said.

“We only graduate three people from this Big Ten team,” he said. “We’re bringing in one of the best freshman classes in the Big Ten conference next year. We’re only going to get better. This is a huge step forward for us.”