WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana, February 18. THE No. 10 University of Minnesota women’s swimming and diving team moved into first place after two days of the four-day Big Ten Championships, held in West Lafayette, Ind. The Golden Gophers finished the second day with two event titles, a Big Ten Championship meet record and has 204.5 points heading into tomorrow’s competition. Michigan follows with 195.5 points, while defending champions Indiana has 191 points.
In her first Big Ten Championship and event, Kelci Bryant walked away with a Big Ten title and a championship meet record in the 1-meter event. During the prelims, Bryant set a facility record when she held a score of 328.10. In the finals, she scored 348.20 and set a Big Ten Championship meet record, which was previously set by Indiana’s and U.S. Olympian Christina Loukas in 2006.
“This is my first Big Ten meet so it’s all kind of exciting and new,” Bryant said. “I had a good time.”
“Not only is Kelci a great diver, it is so great to see her interact with the team and really is a true team athlete. We were the last team to leave the pool tonight because we all stayed and watched her perform and then watched her get her first Big Ten award. She brings a great team spirit and really helps us pull together as a swimming and diving team.”
Ashley Steenvoorden walked away with her second career Big Ten title and the first in the 500 free. Like Bryant, Steenvoorden led throughout the day after posting a prelim time of 4:42.37. She finished the night with a win in the 500 free in 4:39.47. Going unshaved, she posted a career-best and provisional qualifying time and defeated Michigan’s Emily Brunemann by nearly two seconds (4:41.66).
“Last year I was second so I knew coming in that I wanted to improve on that,” Steenvoorden said. “I just wanted to swim my own race, and I knew if I did that everything was going to play out the way I wanted it to.”
“What impressed me the most about Ashley’s swim was how she swam her race and really took control,” Kremer said. “She was calm and throughout the event, she continued to swim the way she could. We’re so happy with her being able to put up a time of 4:39 and we think there are more good things to come from Ashley.”
However, arguably the most exciting finish for the Gophers also came in the 500 free when Hannah Whitehead finished third overall. Swimming mostly backstroke for the Gophers, Whitehead shaved nearly three seconds off her prelim time to finish in a provisional qualifying time of 4:42.76.
The Gophers started the second night with a third-place finish in the 200 free relay. Alison Eggers, Kaylee Jamison, Meagan Radecke and Megan Braun combined for a season-best and provisional qualifying time of 1:30.80.
Although the Gophers didn’t place swimmers in the 200 IM championship final, Minnesota had three compete in the consolation final in Jillian Tyler, Haley Spencer and Paige Bradley. Tyler won the consolation final in a season-best time of 2:00.26. Spencer followed in 11th overall in 2:00.55 and Bradley finished in 12th (2:00.86). Alison Eggers represented the Gophers in the 50 free final when she touched the wall in 22.96, while Jamison was 13th overall in 23.16 and Radecke was 15th in 23.26.
“I’m so impressed with how we did tonight,” co-head coach Kelly Kremer said. “Although we had a good prelim, it wasn’t our best. It was impressive to see how well they responded tonight for the finals. Everyone was in their element tonight and it really gives up great momentum to see what we can do in the next two days. Our best swims are yet to come in this meet and hopefully that sets us up well.”
Action continues tomorrow at 11 a.m. (ET) with diving at 1 p.m. and finals at 6:30 p.m.
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