The No. 11 women’s swimming and diving team begins postseason competition today at the Big Ten Championships in Minneapolis.
The team defeated its final six opponents of the regular season, helping them climb the CSCAA rankings. They now enter the championship as the highest-ranked team at the meet, just ahead of No. 13 Minnesota.
The Golden Gophers are the two-time defending champions. IU Coach Ray Looze said they remain IU’s toughest competition this year because they have few weaknesses.
“Being at home is certainly an advantage,” Looze said. “They don’t have travel or anything to deal with. We’re going to have to go into the lion’s den and have the broken bottle in one hand and the rusty chain in the other.”
At 8-3, the Hoosiers’ only losses have come to No. 6 Texas, No. 12 Tennessee and No. 15 Auburn. Throughout the four days of competition, the Hoosiers will face six of the top 25 teams.
The women have won the Big Ten title three of the past five years, most recently in the 2011 season. Twenty-two swimmers will travel to this year’s meet, six of which are seniors.
Senior Stephanie Armstrong said the team support sets this year apart from the others.
“We have the men right on our back,” she said. “They support us so much. They just made us the most endearing video to get us excited, which has never happened before. To have that kind of support is unbelievable.”
Junior Madelon Webb said although they try to stay loose for every meet, it’s nothing compared to Big Tens.
“Usually we go kind of crazy,” she said. “We’ll bring tutus, we’ll dress up and paint our faces. We do better when we have fun like that. We like to be relaxed, and that’s, I think, when we swim fastest.”
While training remains the same for every regular season meet, the team begins tapering for championship season, Looze said. This includes dropping volume, intensity or speed intervals.
Sophomore Brooklynn Snodgrass and seniors Lindsay Vrooman, Bronwyn Pasloski and Brenna MacLean have already achieved qualifying times for the NCAA Championships. Looze said they have not been resting for this meet.
“If you want to be at your very best for NCAAs, then you don’t want to taper too many times because every time you taper it’s a little less effective,” he said. “You can enter the land of diminishing returns.”
Vrooman is the top-seeded swimmer in the 500-yard freestyle and the 1,650-yard freestyle for the meet. Other individual top seeds include Pasloski in the 100-yard breaststroke, Snodgrass in the 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke and MacLean in the 200-yard butterfly.
IU enters as the top seed in the 200-yard medley relay, 400-yard medley relay and 400-yard freestyle relay.
Looze said he looks forward to seeing how months of training and preparation will pay off.
“We worked hard and we prepared to a very high level, better than we feel our competitors did,” he said. “So not only do we have that confidence, but now we can just have a good time and let our hard work stand on its own.”
The Hoosiers have 12 top three seeds going into its biggest meet of the year.
Looze said the Hoosiers are both physically and mentally prepared for the meet, and they must be good across the board to continue the tradition of success at the Big Ten Championships.
“We have a really good history of sticking these meets,” he said. “We’ve got a great plan — the girls are confident in it. They know the histories. We’re confident that we’ve prepared, and we’re ready to go.”
Follow reporterGrace Palmieri on Twitter@grace_palmieri.