IU wins third straight Big Ten Championship


IU swimmers and divers cheer on their teammates Saturday at the Counsilman Billingsley Aquatics Center during the Big Ten Conference Women's Swimming and Diving Championships. Chet Strange Buy Photos

This meet was about the score.

It was about Allysa Vavra and all of IU’s individual champions.

It was about IU coach Ray Looze — who was awarded Big Ten Swimming Coach of the Year — hurrying over to junior Courey Schaefer and lifting her off the ground in excitement after a preliminary race.

The IU women’s swimming and diving team left the rest of the Big Ten in its wake this week, claiming its third straight title and winning by a 243-point margin (821-578) against runner-up Minnesota.

“The past two years I’ve been on this team, we’ve won Big Tens both times,” junior Brittany Strumbel said. “My freshman year, I thought we were the best team in the country. I thought we were awesome, and each year we just keep winning by more points, and I don’t know how we do it because... when we come here, it just seems to all come together for us.”

Strumbel started the Hoosiers off with a Big Ten record-breaking first leg of the victorious 800-yard freestyle relay Wednesday. The team was tied for the lead going into the finals Thursday, and after taking a 98-94 lead after the first event Thursday, it never looked back.

“I think they’re respectful of how hard it is to win one of these,” Looze said. “There were points in the year where I don’t think anybody thought this was going to be possible, especially from the outside looking in.”

Vavra was nearly unstoppable, winning both the 200 and 400-yard individual medley competitions and coming in third in the 200-yard breaststroke.

Senior Ashley Jones had three top-five finishes, two of which were behind Vavra.
IU diving once again dove with great success. Freshman Laura Ryan finished third in the 3-meter diving and first in the platform competition, and junior Gabby Agostino came in third in platform.

Not only did the Hoosiers have the most depth, they might have had the most energy of any team in attendance. The IU bench was constantly filled with jumps, screams and enthusiastic and occasionally costumed athletes and coaches. Even IU Athletic Director Fred Glass got caught up in the moment, jumping into the pool to celebrate with the team after they clinched the title.

“I’m a fifth-year senior, and we’ve just learned over the years that the more ridiculous we are, the faster we swim,” Jones said.

Minnesota boasted both the Swimmer of the Big Ten Championships in senior Jillian Tyler and the Diver of the Big Ten Championships in junior Kelci Bryant. On Friday, Tyler became the 12th swimmer in the Big Ten to win an event four years in a row when she won the 100-yard breaststroke.

Despite these impressive showings, the Hoosiers proved that depth is perhaps the most important trait a team can have in a championship meet.

“This week is not about the individual,” Vavra said. “It’s all about the team, and to win a third Big Ten title, it doesn’t just take one person, it takes everyone on the team to do the same thing.”

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