Swimmers lead after first day at Big Ten

Brian Stensaas

INDIANAPOLIS — The Minnesota women’s swimming and diving team is in a familiar situation after day one of the Big Ten championships.
After six events, the Gophers are atop the leaderboard with 174 points. Michigan trails with 166, followed by Northwestern at 156.
The event is running on a different format. Preliminaries are being held in yards while the finals are being run in short-course meters.
At last year’s championships, Minnesota took the lead after five events and never looked back, winning its first conference championship in school history.
Coach Jean Freeman said after the first day she is pleased with the team’s slight lead.
“I’m real happy here,” she said. “We’ve got a few people who are a little off yet, but we will get them back for tomorrow.”
One swimmer who is right on is Jinny Smedstad. The sophomore swam in both the 500 freestyle and the 200 Individual Medley — back-to-back — finishing third in the free and 10th in the IM.
“We had some gutsy swims out here tonight,” Freeman said of Smedstad’s performance and the output of Katy Christoferson, who set the varsity record in the 200 IM.
Minnesota also had success on the first day of diving. Both Rachel Degener and Tracy LaVoi placed in the top eight in the 1-meter, fourth and eighth respectively.
Also contributing on day one was Dana Baum. Participating in her first Big Ten championships, she placed fifth in the 500 free.
The mood at the IUPUI Natatorium is a riveting one for the maroon and gold.
Support is being shown at both ends of the pool, with several members of the swimming team having an opportunity to watch the whole diving competition for the first time all year.
“It is exciting just to be here at Big Tens,” Smedstad said. “We just feel like this is our pool. We’re ready to swim fast and know that we have put in the work to win another championship.”
Event-wise, the 200 IM was the strongest event on the day. Along with Christoferson, Emily Deppe and Terri Jashinsky qualified for the finals, gaining valuable points for the Gophers.
Minnesota’s strongest event, the 400 IM will be raced today at the championships. Both the 100 and 200 butterfly events — which the Gophers swept in 1999 — are also yet to come on the weekend.
“We’re very thrilled so far,” Freeman said. “To be in the top three after the first day puts you in good shape.”

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