Women’s Swimming: Northwestern prepares for tough competition at Big Ten Championships


Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Ellen Anderson participates in the freestyle. The senior holds the Wildcats’ top time in the 500-yard freestyle this season.

Tucker Johnson, Reporter

Swimming and Diving

After a strong regular season, Northwestern is heading to the Big Ten Championships looking to prove itself a team to reckon with.

The Wildcats will take on several ranked opponents at this year’s Big Tens. Facing tough competition, the team has been training to peak at this specific meet all season and is prepared to swim its best times this year.

“I’m looking forward to racing fully rested, something we haven’t done all year,” senior Julianne Kurke said. “It’s always fun having the easy speed.”

NU will spend four days in Ann Arbor for the meet, which will include seven separate sessions of preliminary rounds and finals against some of the toughest teams in the nation. Thirteen of the Big Ten’s 14 schools have varsity women’s swim teams, and seven of those teams are currently ranked among the top 25 in the NCAA.

Minnesota is looking to win its fifth consecutive Big Ten championship at the meet. The Golden Gophers defeated NU 245-108 at their late January meet, but are currently No. 24, behind conference rivals No. 6 Michigan, No. 12 Indiana, No. 17 Wisconsin, No. 18 Purdue and No. 21 Penn State.

“We’re looking for the same goals we started with at the beginning of the year: personal records, NCAA qualifiers, and improving on (last year’s) tenth place finish,” coach Abby Steketee said.

Close races in last year’s preliminary rounds cost NU at least a few points, such as when then-sophomore Annika Winsnes missed qualifying for the A final in the 200-yard freestyle by 0.04 seconds. By taking ninth overall in the preliminary heats, Winsnes earned the first seed in the consolation final and ultimately finished 10th.

“All the places were really close last year, especially in that eighth, ninth, 10th spot,” senior Ellen Anderson said.

Additionally, this year’s Big Tens will give the Cats an opportunity to earn Olympic Trials qualifying times. Four NU swimmers have already earned cut times for the Trials, with junior Lacey Locke qualifying in the 100 backstroke, junior Melissa Postoll in the 200 backstroke, freshman Peyton Greenberg in the 200 breaststroke and junior Lauren Abruzzo in the 400 IM and the 400 and 800 freestyle. Future Cats Krystal Lara and Sandra Freeman, who have signed National Letters of Intent for NU’s Class of 2020, have also qualified for Olympic Trials, in the 100 backstroke and 400 IM respectively.

Freshman diver Olivia Rosendahl has qualified for the Olympic Trials for the second time, and she is one of only four American women to have met the qualifying score in every diving event this season.

The Cats have swum in only two multi-session meets this season. At the first, the three-day TYR Invitational in November, NU finished first out of six teams. At the Cats last meet Jan. 29 and Jan. 30 against Minnesota and Purdue, they lost by large, similar margins to both of their opponents.

Steketee referenced Muhammad Ali’s famous “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” philosophy when describing the team’s approach to the multi-day competition.

“On the deck you’re focused on the things you can control, the floating like a butterfly, not getting all hung up on the things you can’t,” she said. “The sting like a bee is you never give up.  You’re not just racing with your muscles, but with your spirit.”

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