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Swim and Dive: Northwestern places fourth and sixth at Big Ten Championships

The Wildcats set multiple school records over the weekend.

Ally Larson, Maddie Smith, Selen Ozbilen and Isabella Wallace show off their third place medals they won in the 200 freestyle relay.
Photo: Northwestern Swim and Dive

Northwestern swim and dive closed out its season at the Big Ten Championships with fourth and sixth place finishes for the women’s and men’s teams, respectively,

As the women’s conference championships came to an end, it became clear that Ohio State would win the meet and that Northwestern had secured fourth place with 992 points. As the men’s competition came to an end, fourth, fifth and sixth places were still up for grabs. While Michigan slowly but surely pulled ahead of everyone to win the men’s meet, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Purdue found themselves swimming for their lives, with the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, ultimately deciding the final positions.

Regardless of how the team finished as a whole, Northwestern proved itself. The first two swims of the meet broke school records in the women’s 800-yard freestyle relay and the women’s 200-yard medley relay. Both swims were under the NCAA-A cut, which guarantees an invitation to the NCAA championship meet.

In the 50 freestyle, Selen Ozbilen took 12th in 22.47, while Maddie Smith broke 22 seconds and the school record finishing third in a time of 21.94. In the 500 freestyle, Lola Mull finished 10th and Ilektra Lebl 16th. The 400-yard medley relay featured the same lineup as the 200 medley relay and delivered a similar result: another NCAA-A cut and a second-place finish in 3:29.58.

In the 100 butterfly, Smith placed third and broke the school record with a 52.09. Miriam Guevara touched fourth at 52.25. In the grueling 400 IM, Lebl finished 11th and Annika Wagner finished 14th. And in the 200 freestyle, Ally Larson took fifth and Selen Ozbilen seventh.

The 100 backstroke saw Emma Lepisova finishing in fifth (53.08), and Northwestern’s duo of Sophie Angus and Hannah Brunzell once again delivered in the 100 breaststroke. Angus broke the school record with her second-place time of 58.89, while Brunzell finished third at 59.23. In the 200 butterfly, Guevara finished second in 1:55.11. Northwestern’s 200-yard freestyle relay out-touched Indiana by just one-hundredth of a second to take third place with a time of 1:29.11.

The last day of the meet was the best day for the women. In the 100 freestyle, Smith broke the 48 second barrier for the first time in Wildcat history with her 47.98 and finished second. If you’re counting, that’s three individual school records and two major barriers broken for Smith on the meet. In the mile (1650 freestyle), Mull chased down Ohio State’s Veronica Tafuto in the last 50 yards to take third in 16:08.33. In the 200 backstroke, Lepisova took third in 1:53.62, and in the 200 breaststroke, Brunzell touched third (2:08.07), Angus fifth (2:08.63) and Becky Kamau eighth (2:13.17).

In the last event of the night, the 400 freestyle relay, Northwestern brought it full circle. The team of Ozbilen, Smith, Wagner and Larson touched in 3:14.35, good for third place. Just like the opening 200 medley relay, they set a new school record and got the NCAA-A cut. And when you’re swimming against powerhouses like Ohio State, Michigan and Indiana, fourth is pretty good.

On the boards, Northwestern was great too. Markie Hopkins took sixth in the three-meter. Other NU divers finished 18th, 20th and 24th. On the platform, Jaye Patrick took eighth, with other divers finishing ninth, 13th and 19th. In one-meter, Hopkins and Patrick finished 10th and 11th respectively, while Leah Parsons added points from 23rd.

On the men’s boards, Yohan Escrick and Evan Labuda finished 14th and 15th in the three-meter, while Henry Schirmer finished 22nd. In the one-meter, Escrick took eighth, Schirmer 15th and Labuda 19th. On the platform, Schirmer took 14th and Labuda 15th, while Escrick added points from 21st.

In the pool, the men did not start off as impressively as the women did, finishing ninth in the 200 medley relay. But in the 800 freestyle relay, the ‘Cats took another school record, finishing fifth in 6:20.58. On day two, Emils Jurkic and Marcus Mok finished 11th and 15th in the 200 IM, while in the 500 freestyle, Connor Lamastra picked up eighth place in 4:20.23.

In the 400 IM, Jeff Durmer finished sixth with a time of 3:47.44, with three other swimmers further down the list. In the 200 freestyle, Northwestern qualified five swimmers to finals. Rob Cecil came 22nd, Ben Forbes 15th, Liam Gately 14th, Aleksa Bobar eighth in a time of 1:36.44, and Connor Lamastra seventh in a time of 1:36.35.

Manu Bacarizo finished 11th in the 100 backstroke with a 46.89. In the 100 breaststroke, Kevin Houseman touched eighth with a 51.87 and Mok touched 14th in 53.38. This is incredibly good, given the Big Ten’s depth in breaststroke. For context, Houseman’s time would have been sixth at the ACC championships or second at the SEC championships. In the 200 butterfly, Connor Lamastra took home the only medal of the meet, placing third with a time of 1:42.68 and rattling Federico Burdisso’s school record. Ben Miller came in at 1:44.35, placing fifth.

Day five saw Northwestern swim for fourth place against Purdue and Wisconsin. The ‘Cats entered the day with 554 points to the Boilermakers’ 615.5 and the Badgers’ 571.

After slipping further behind Purdue and Wisconsin after the 100 freestyle, Jeff Durmer grabbed eighth in the mile (15:06.96) after chasing down Minnesota’s Christopher Nagy over the last 150 yards. Next up was the 200 backstroke. Manu Bacarizo took seventh in 1:42.51, while other Northwestern and Wisconsin swimmers brought the score yet closer. With two events to go, Wisconsin and Purdue were dead even, and Northwestern was just behind them.

In the 200 breaststroke, Mok and Houseman took ninth and 10th in 1:54.06 and 1:55.11 respectively, providing a powerful bump for Northwestern. The scores with one event remaining were Wisconsin 689, Purdue 680 and Northwestern 676.

So it came down to the 400 freestyle relay. Purdue touched in fourth place at 2:50.32 and secured fourth place for the meet with a final total of 732 points. Northwestern finished seventh in 2:54.15 while Wisconsin was ninth in 2:54.58, but it wasn’t quite enough. Wisconsin secured fifth with 729 points and Northwestern took sixth with 722 points. Sometimes, that’s just how the cookie crumbles.