BLOOMINGTON, IN, February 20. THE Penn State women’s swimming and diving team wasn’t a favorite heading into the Big Ten Championships this weekend, but the Nittany Lions put on one of the most dominating performances in recent history to win their second Big Ten Championship with 693 points, according to PSU sources.
The Nittany Lions’ point total was the most by any team in the Big Ten Championships since Michigan had 788.5 in 1998, and it was the most ever recorded by a Penn State team.
Indiana finished second with 497, Wisconsin was third with 479, Michigan was fourth with 474, and Purdue took fifth with 399. Minnesota (314), Northwestern (293), Iowa (218), Illinois (203), Ohio State (199) and Michigan State (84) finished sixth through 11th, respectively.
Penn State, which is ranked No. 14 by the CSCAA, capped off a brilliant performance by breaking two more school records, and recording three more NCAA “A” cuts, including two in the 1,650-yard freestyle, where the Nittany Lions placed six of the top eight swimmers to put a stamp on its first conference championship since 2002. Penn State scored a total of 83 points out of a possible 155 in that one event alone.
Penn State head coach Bill Dorenkott was named the Big Ten Swimming Coach of the Year, while six Nittany Lion swimmers were named to the all-Big Ten first team, and two more were named to the conference’s second team. Senior Kerry Smith (Havertown, Pa.) received the Team Sportsmanship honor.
“I didn’t expect this type of performance even a little bit,” said Dorenkott, who won his second Big Ten title in just seven years overseeing the women’s program. “We surpassed all expectations in terms of point totals. We had a good meet, and you can’t argue with that, but we had some things that didn’t go the way we expected. But overall, I’m pretty darned pleased.”
Penn State had 22 of its 25 swimmers score points at the Big Ten Championships.
“Not many teams have that kind of depth,” Dorenkott said. “But even more impressive was the numbers our kids were putting up in the finals.”
“We’ve got a pretty amazing coaching staff and I’m proud of what they did to get this team ready to compete this weekend.”
Junior Amberle Biedermann (Colorado Springs, Colo.), senior Deirdre Dlugonski (Washington, Pa.), junior Sarah Haupt (Carlisle, Pa.), sophomore Erin Morris (Ft. Wayne, Ind.), freshman Lauren Preyss (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) and senior Kristen Woodring (Sinking Spring, Pa.) were all named to the first team. Sophomore Claire Hawley (Barnstable, Mass.) and senior Courtney Stanchock (Bloomsburg, Pa.) were both named to the second team.
The Big Ten title was the second for this senior class, which includes Dlugonski, Jennifer Eberst (Clifton Park, N.Y.), Meredith Holman (Inman, S.C.), Larissa Kavchok (Emmaus, Pa.), Corey Pagnotta (Westport, Conn.), Alison Riccobono (Ypsilanti, Mich.), Lauren Semchyshen (New Fairfield, Conn.), Sara Shepherd (Nazareth, Pa.), Smith, Stanchock and Woodring.
“That, in my mind, is probably the most gratifying part of this whole experience,” Dorenkott said. “We have 11 seniors who have been an integral part of what we’ve been trying to do at Penn State over the past four, five or six years. This championship is really for them.”
If there was any doubt if Penn State could hold on to win its second Big Ten Championship after exiting Day 3 of the event with a 145 point lead, that doubt was erased after the 1,650 freestyle.
Hawley achieved the second-best time in school history to finish second in 16 minutes, 16.59 seconds, which was an NCAA qualifying time. Sophomore Margy Keefe (Cincinnati, Ohio) also achieved an NCAA “A” cut to finish fourth in 16:20.52. Morris, sophomore Nikki Collins (Carmel, Ind.), senior Meredith Holman (Inman, S.C.) and junior Patty Murphy (Medford, N.J.) finished fifth through eighth, respectively, all with NCAA “B” cut times. Sophomore Jessica Barnes (Glenmoore, Pa.) took 16th to wrap up the swim.
Morris broke Penn State’s school record in the 200 backstroke with an NCAA “A” cut time of 1:57.94, finishing second. Haupt took ninth in 1:59.67 (NCAA “B” cut), and sophomore Chelsea Frank was 14th in 2:03.02.
Preyss led all Penn State swimmers in the 100 freestyle, taking seventh with an NCAA “B” time of 50.36, while Dlugonski broke the school record with a time of 49.84 (“B” cut) to finish ninth out of the consolation finals.
Woodring finished seventh in the 200 breaststroke (2:17.61), and Stanchock took 10th (2:17.28), both with NCAA “B” cut times.
Biedermann broke the Councilman-Billingsley Aquatic Center pool record to finish first in the preliminaries of the 200 butterfly in 1:58.65. She came back in the finals to take third place in 2:00.65 (“B” cut). Senior Jennifer Eberst (Clifton Park, N.Y.) took sixth (2:01.63), and sophomore Megan Palera (Santa Maria, Calif.) finished 14th in 2:04.62.
The Nittany Lions wrapped up the championships by finishing seventh in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:22.76, another NCAA “B” cut time.
Overall, Penn State recorded 11 NCAA qualifying times in the championships. Morris, Preyss, Dlugonski, Palera, Stanchock, Woodring, Haupt, Hawley, Keefe and Biedermann all guaranteed themselves a trip to the NCAA Championships, which will take place Mar. 17-19 in West Lafayette, Ind.
Earlier in the week, Preyss broke Penn State’s 200 freestyle record while swimming the first leg of the 800 freestyle relay, and Palera broke her own school record in the 400 IM.
The Nittany Lions won four of the 21 events at the championships. Penn State’s 200- and 400-medley relay teams both took first. Biedermann won the 100 butterfly, and Woodring won the 100 breaststroke.