Swimming and Diving: Northwestern women’s relays shine at Big Ten Championships, men look to build upon that start this week


Daily file photo by Joanne Haner

A Northwestern swimmer competes in a butterfly event. The women finished fifth at the Big Ten Championships this weekend, while the men are gearing up for their conferences this week.

Kate Walter, Reporter

In a competitive field at the Big Ten championships, No. 16 Northwestern finished fifth with 919.5 points, setting nine school records, sending finalists to all but two individual events and snagging numerous NCAA ‘A’ cuts and top-10 finishes. 

This fifth-place finish is just off the team’s fourth place spot from the past two seasons. Coach Katie Robinson said she is proud of NU’s performance, especially since the team has overcome lots of adversity throughout the season. 

“Overall, we didn’t quite achieve what we wanted to as a team,” Robinson said. “But that’s not to say we didn’t fight really hard with everything that we had and have some amazing highlights from the weekend.” 

NU kicked off the meet by setting a new school record in the 200-yard medley relay. The team, consisting of junior Emma Lepisova, senior Tara Vovk, graduate student Maddie Smith and sophomore Jasmine Nocentini, touched the wall in 1:35.23, good for an NCAA ‘A’ cut and the Cats third top-three finish in three years. 

This group dropped over a second off their original time and Robinson said the event was a “great way to start off the meet with a lot of momentum and big energy.” 

Throughout the course of the meet, all five of NU’s relays posted NCAA ‘A’ cuts.

Sophomore Lola Mull, referred to by Smith as “our distance ace,” put up several record-breaking performances at the conference championships. The second-team All-Big Ten swimmer finished second in both the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:39.03 and in the 1650-yard freestyle with a time of 15:51.38, improving from last year’s 10th and third place finishes. 

Vovk also received second-team All-Big Ten honors for her second-place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 58.52, dominating in the first Big Ten ‘A’ final of her college career. The Cats made up almost half of the eight competitors in the ‘A’ final of the 100-yard breaststroke. Alongside Vovk, graduate student Sophie Angus and junior Hannah Brunzell finished fourth and sixth, respectively.

In the sprint freestyle events, Nocentini lowered her own school record in the 50-yard freestyle with a 21.78, earning bronze. Smith finished close behind in 22.17, good for seventh place. 

Lepisova touched the wall third in the 200-yard backstroke in 1:53.37, marking the third straight year that she has earned a top-three finish in that event at the Big Ten Championships.

Senior Miriam Guevara lowered her own school record in the 100-yard butterfly by more than half a second, finishing in fourth place.

NU rounded out the storm of school records with Smith capturing the 100-yard freestyle record in 47.71, finishing fourth, with Nocentini in fifth. 

Juniors Markie Hopkins and Jaye Patrick led the diving squad at the Big Ten Championships. Hopkins finished 11th in the 1 meter and Patricks placed ninth in the platform.

The divers will have the chance to qualify for NCAAs at the upcoming Zone meet.

Now, the women are shifting their attention to the NCAA Championships in March. While several swimmers have already achieved NCAA ‘A’ cuts, the official qualification list will be released soon. Smith felt that the Big Ten Championships were “good for us, but definitely left us feeling very hungry and fired up for the end of the season.” 

For the No. 25 men’s team, their week of racing at the Big Ten Championships begins on Wednesday evening at Purdue. 

The Cats are fired up for the postseason after a victory against Purdue and Minnesota in the last meet of the regular season. Senior Connor LaMastra said the win boosted the team’s confidence heading into the postseason.

“It gave us that extra push we needed to put in the last bit of work before championship season,” said LaMastra, who took home the victory in the 1000-yard freestyle and 200-yard butterfly against Minnesota and Purdue. 

NU will look to junior Kevin Houseman, a member of the US National team, and Olympic bronze medalist Federico Burdisso to make waves at the Big Ten Championships. 

Robinson also emphasized how relays have been a focus for the men’s program. Earlier this season, the team of senior Manuel Martos Bacarizo, Houseman, Burdisso and senior Andrew Zhang broke a longstanding program record in the 200-yard medley relay with a time of 1:24.68.

From the diving squad, senior Yohan Eskrick-Parkinson claimed the school record in the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard.

NU finished sixth last year at the Big Ten Championships, scoring the most points in program history, and hope to build upon that this championship season.

As a team captain, LaMastra says that leading his team during the championship season means “everything to him.” 

“It’s tough knowing that it’s my last conference meet,” said LaMastra. “But I’m excited to see how people swim and help lead this team to what’s hopefully going to be one of the best conference meets in program history.”

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Twitter: @katewalter03

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