Women’s Swimming: Wong up against Jamaica’s 50-meter freestyle record-holder

Minjae Park

Heading into last weekend’s meet against Notre Dame, coach Jimmy Tierney said he would put Emily Wong up against any swimmer in the country. This weekend, she will face Natasha Moodie, who is Jamaica’s 50-meter freestyle record-holder and placed 37th in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Neither Moodie nor Wong will take the other lightly.

The two will join many of the nation’s top swimmers in Saturday’s dual meet between No. 23 Northwestern (7-2, 1-2 Big Ten) and No. 16 Michigan (3-5, 0-2) in Ann Arbor, Mich.Although Moodie has competed at the international level, Wong’s 22.77 time in November’s TYR Invitational edges Moodie’s season-best mark of 22.85. Wong’s career best time is also marginally better-22.55 to 22.64. But Tierney will not be looking for top times this weekend.

“(The matchup) should be good,” Tierney said. “Tasha’s definitely swimming the best I’ve seen her since she’s been with the University of Michigan. … But as long as they race hard, I’m not expecting necessarily the world’s fastest times.”

NU’s Kassia Shishkoff will also test her talent against Michigan’s Emily Brunemann on the 500-yard freestyle. Among many other individual honors, Brunemann has been named USA Swimming Female Open Water Swimmer of the Year and Big Ten Swimmer of the Year, as well as capturing an NCAA championship for the 1,650-yard freestyle. She also represented the U.S. in the 2009 World Aquatics Championships in Rome, finishing ninth on the 5km open water event.

“She’s quite a talent,” Tierney said of Brunemann. “I think Kassia (Shishkoff) can give her a run, I really do. I think she’s just as talented, if not more. It will be a fun race.”

Despite Brunemann’s extensive collection of awards, Shishkoff is not fazed. The last time the two met in 2008, Shishkoff took first place in the 500-yard freestyle by 0.38 seconds.

“I’m actually going to have to go a lot faster than I did at Notre Dame to beat Emily Brunemann,” Shishkoff said. “I’ve beaten her, but at Big Tens, she’s always done way better than me. It’ll just have to be how each of us is feeling that day, and it’ll be a good race.”

Shishkoff enters the race in fine form, having been named Big Ten Swimmer of the Week for her heroics against Notre Dame. Having already won two individual events, she was thrown into the 400 IM last minute and won first place. She then competed in the decisive relay event right after and led the Wildcats to a narrow 153-147 win.

“She did a really great job last weekend, and I know she’s put in a lot of work,” co-captain Ellen Grigg said. “She’s always a big performer for us. It’s great she’s getting recognized for all the work she does.”

Preceding Shishkoff in the Big Ten weekly awards were Michigan swimmer Margaret Kelly and diver Amanda Lohman. Both had strong performances in last week’s defeat to Indiana, with Kelly winning three individual events and Lohman finishing second on the 1- and 3-meter diving boards.

Felicitas Lenz will look to improve on last week’s fourth- and second-place finishes against Notre Dame when she faces Lohman. Tierney said the team’s arrival in Ann Arbor on Friday afternoon, which gives the squad Friday and Saturday morning to practice, will put Lenz and sophomore Carlin Dacey in a better position to compete.

“They’ll be a bit more acclimated and ready to go,” Tierney said. “They’re going to have more preparation to get used to the diving tank at Michigan, as opposed to last week.”

With the extra practice time and the team’s confidence high from last week’s dramatic comeback win, the Cats will be hoping to top the Wolverines, who have yet to win against Big Ten opposition this season.

“Every time they swim us, they seem to be at the top of their form,” Tierney said. “I’m expecting a great Michigan team to be up against us this weekend.”

[email protected]