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Hoosiers look to defend Big Ten Championship at home



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Junior Brittany Strumbel hugs junior Nikki White after winning the 800 freestyle relay during the Big Ten Women's Swimming and Diving Championships on Wednesday at the Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatic Center. The relay team, which also includes sophomore Taylor Wohrley and junior anchor Margaux Farrell, won with a time of 7:01.13, more than a second ahead of Ohio State. Alex Farris Buy Photos

The Hoosiers intend not only to defend their pool this week as they become hosts to the Big Ten Championship for the first time since 2005, but their 2009 and 2010 Big Ten titles as well.

From freshman diver Laura Ryan to senior leaders like Ashley Jones, who earned three top-three finishes at last year’s Big Ten Championship, there is plenty of depth on this year’s squad.

“We’re just looking to have a lot of fun now,” IU coach Ray Looze said. “All the preparation is behind us ... no predictions; we have to take it an event at a time, a heat at a time. We need to focus on ourselves and just stay loose.”

Junior freestyler Margaux Farrell, who found the podium five times last year (with wins in the 200 free and the 400 free relay), will look to continue her success on the big stage. Junior diver Gabby Agostino will defend her 2010 victory in the platform diving competition.

With six Big Ten teams ranked in the top 20 of the College Swimming Coaches’ Association of America poll, the No. 14 Hoosiers will face some of the nation’s elite.

Minnesota enters ranked at No. 13, followed by IU at No. 14, with Michigan at No. 16, Wisconsin at No. 17, Ohio State at No. 19 and Purdue at No. 20. With the teams stacked so closely together, even the coach of the favored Minnesota squad said the title is up for grabs this week.

“I think this conference is arguably one of the best and deepest conferences in the country,” Minnesota coach Terry Nieszner said. “To compete at this conference, every single person on the team has to step up, raise the bar a little bit higher and perform up to what they’re capable of doing and beyond.”

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