Women enter Big Ten championships as favorite to repeat

Minnesota upended three-time defending champion Indiana last year.

Minnesota's Kiera Janzen swims the 1,000-yard freestyle against Wisconsin on Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, at the University Aquatic Center.

Ichigo Takikawa, Daily File Photo

Minnesota’s Kiera Janzen swims the 1,000-yard freestyle against Wisconsin on Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, at the University Aquatic Center.

Nate Gotlieb

Gophers junior Tess Behrens won two individual titles at last year’s Big Ten swimming and diving championships.

But with new swimmers in her championship events, it’s no guarantee she will repeat at this year’s championships, held this weekend at the University Aquatic Center.

Behrens faces competition from Indiana freshman Brooklynn Snodgrass, who holds conference-best times this season in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke — the two events Behrens won last year.

Behrens understands the challenge she faces but appears confident in her own ability and preparation.

“I’ve done everything that I can to prepare myself to repeat,” Behrens said.

No. 12 Minnesota is the favorite to claim its second consecutive Big Ten championship this weekend, but head coach Kelly Kremer didn’t seem worried about the Gophers’ place among other teams.

“You can’t always control winning,” Kremer said, “but you can control yourself and ultimately how you perform in a race.”

Behrens also ranks third in the 100 backstroke and fifth in the 200 backstroke in the conference.

Kremer said he hopes his team can focus on performing its best rather than worrying about race results. He said this can be a challenge, especially for swimmers who have already won conference titles.

“They feel a sense of pressure to have to repeat,” Kremer said, “or a sense of pressure to perform at a level that is comparable.”

The Gophers scored 680.5 points at the 2012 Big Ten championships, upending three-time defending champion Indiana. Minnesota claimed five titles and four first-team All-Big Ten honors last season, but results vary from year to year.

“It’s a completely different year,” Kremer said. “How races unfold a year ago doesn’t have a lot of bearing on how this year goes.”

Junior Maggie Keefer was the Gophers’ top-scoring diver at the Big Ten championships last year, earning Big Ten Diver of the Championships honors. Kremer said he expects Keefer and the Minnesota diving corps to play a large role this weekend.

He said his team is deep and experienced in almost every event, which bodes well for a repeat attempt.

“We’re a team that, generally speaking, is understated,” he said. “Like in the past, I just hope we let our performance this weekend show how well-prepared we are.”