The scene after Minnesota won the Big Ten women’s swimming and diving championships Saturday night in Iowa City, Iowa, involved a lot of splashing.
All of the Gophers seniors jumped into the diving well to celebrate their first Big Ten championship.
“I’m just so happy for our seniors,” head men’s and women’s coach Kelly Kremer said. “They’ve gone through three years of getting second at this meet, and it is long overdue for them to have a chance to celebrate as a team in the middle of the pool at the end of this.”
Minnesota accumulated 680.5 team points and took the top spot on the podium from second-place Indiana (651 points) and third-place Ohio State (560 points).
The team ended Wednesday in third place, but that was the only time it concluded a day out of first during the four-day competition. The Gophers claimed five individual titles at the meet.
Senior Ashley Steenvoorden grabbed the 500-yard freestyle title for the third year in a row with an NCAA automatic qualifying time of four minutes, 38 seconds, which was also a pool record.
She finished second in the 1,650 freestyle, one place short of a four-year sweep in the event.
“It was the icing on a perfect career for me,” Steenvoorden said. “I’ve totally forgot about that [1,650 freestyle] race already. It would have been nice to get my fourth one, but it doesn’t mean anything to me [to lose].”
Sophomore Tess Behrens won both the 100 and 200 backstrokes. Her 100 time of 52.35 was a program record and an NCAA automatic qualifying time. She clocked in at 1:53.34 in the 200 — a program and pool record as well as another NCAA automatic qualifying time.
“Tess was so, so strong throughout the entire meet, both individually and on relays,” Kremer said. “She, right before our eyes, matured as an athlete and really was here for her team.”
Behrens competed in four relays, both the 200 and 400 freestyles and the same distances for medley. All posted third-place times.
Junior Haley Spencer also competed in the 200 and 400 medley relays. She championed the 200 breaststroke with an NCAA automatic qualifying time and pool record of 2:07.58.
Senior Hannah Whitehead rounded out the top finishers with her 200 freestyle win while also swimming in the second-place 800 freestyle relay.
Diver Maggie Keefer was named Big Ten Diver of the Championships. The sophomore placed second on both one-meter and three-meter springboard as well as fourth on platform.
Kremer earned Big Ten Swimming Coach of the Year while the four champions merited spots on the 2012 All-Big Ten First Team. Keefer, Jessica Plant, Tori Simenec, and Lauren Weis made the second team.
Although the team will enjoy the long-awaited victory, an even bigger challenge looms.
“We’ve got one of those teams that talks about NCAAs all year,” Kremer said late Saturday. “This was a goal of ours to celebrate a team championship, but we know our biggest meet of the year is NCAAs. We’ll start preparing for that tomorrow morning.”
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