Women struggling in seventh at Big Ten meet

Matt Perkins

Minnesota’s women’s swimming and diving team’s hopes of meeting expectations are drowning through two days of this year’s Big Ten Championships in Bloomington, Ind.

After declaring a top-half finish to be a team goal and aiming at certain improvements individually, the Gophers have struggled early.

The team is currently in sixth place after seven events. With only 14 events remaining today and Saturday, the Gophers have to make up some ground in the water to meet standards set by the coaching staff.

“We’re a little apprehensive right now,” co-coach Terry Nieszner said. “We may have come out lacking a bit in confidence.”

Competition kicked off Wednesday with the 200-yard medley relay and 800 freestyle relay, in which the Gophers finished sixth and seventh, respectively.

In individual events, Kate Hardt qualified sixth in the 500 free Thursday morning with a personal-best time of 4:49.11.

Although the time was good enough to qualify her for NCAA consideration, she said she still felt she could do better in Thursday night’s finals of the event.

“It was a lifetime best for me,” Hardt said. “But I kind of saved it a little bit in my fourth 100.

“I want to go at least a 4:47 – the faster the better, obviously. I want to qualify (with) a time where I at least know I will be invited to the NCAAs.”

But, fitting with the trend, Hardt fell short of personal expectations in the finals as she finished eighth in a time of 4:55.84. The time was five seconds slower than the seventh-place finisher and more than six seconds worse than Hardt’s qualifying time.

In diving, freshman Jessica Livingston finished seventh on the 1-meter board with a score of 300.95.

Gophers free specialist Katy Coombe missed qualifying for the finals in the 50 free, but her 23.22 qualified her for NCAA consideration.

The Gophers head into today’s events 23 points behind fifth-place Purdue, but the coaching staff said it still has hopes for a top-half finish.

“We’re where we thought we would be,” Nieszner said. “We usually get stronger as the meet goes on.”