WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue women's swimming and diving begins the championship segment of its season this week, returning to Iowa City for the Big Ten Conference Championships Wednesday through Saturday.
The seven-session meet begins with the 200 medley and 800 freestyle relays as well as an exhibition round of 3-meter synchronized diving Wednesday evening. Preliminary rounds are set for the afternoon sessions and begin at noon ET. Big Ten champions and team points will be determined in the evening finals, which begin at 7:30 p.m. ET
The Big Ten Network will televise highlights of the meet Saturday, Feb. 25 at 11 a.m. ET.
The University of Iowa is hosting the conference meet this season at the new Campus Recreation and Wellness Center. The facility opened in the summer of 2010 and is also slated to serve as the host pool of the men's Big Ten Championships next week. The same site has not hosted both Big Ten meets since 1987 and 1988 when they were held in Indianapolis. Additionally, the University of Iowa will be hosting Big Tens for the first time since 1982 (men) and 1985 (women).
Two years ago, Purdue capitalized on its opportunity to host the Big Ten Championships, matching the program's best-ever showing with a fourth-place finish. Last season saw Purdue finish in fifth place amidst a tight grouping. Penn State, Purdue, Michigan and Wisconsin finished fourth through seventh, with just 30.5 points separating fourth-place PSU and seventh-place Wisconsin. The 5 ½-point difference between PSU and Purdue was the smallest between any two teams. Indiana is the three-time defending champions.
The Boilermakers got their first look at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center in November when they traveled to Iowa City for the first time since November 2003. Purdue defeated the Hawkeyes in the head-to-head dual thanks in part to multiple individual victories from Lauren Gustafson, Lauren Roth, Emily Fogle and a diving sweep by Maddie Miskulin.
Besides 2003 and 2010 when the Boilermaker Aquatic Center served as the host site, the 1997-98 campaign is believed to be the last time the Purdue women's swimmers had the opportunity to compete in the host pool of the Big Ten Championships earlier in the season.
Purdue's new school records in the five relays highlighted the 2011 Big Ten meet at Indiana.
Gustafson and Roth each contributed to multiple new relay records. Gustafson swam the anchor leg on all three freestyle relays and the 400 medley relay. Roth was part of the 400 and 800 free and 400 medley. Lauren Nichols also returns to the Big Ten meet as an upperclassman this year after helping the 200 free relay team set a new program benchmark in 2011. Fogle swam the breaststroke leg on the medley relay record setters as a freshman.
This season the likes of Colleen Drew, Amy Katz, Carly Mercer and Rhiannon Sheets have received the opportunity to join Purdue's top relay quartets. At the Ohio State Invitational in December, the Boilers posted times in all five relay events that ranked among the program's all-time top five.
Fogle, Roth and Sheets also established new individual program records at the December meet in Columbus. Fogle eclipsed her 200 breaststroke record from the 2011 Big Ten meet.
For much of the school year, Purdue has trained and prepared specifically for the championship segment of the season, highlighted by the Big Tens this week and the NCAA Championships (March 15-17). The Boilermakers' top performers will look to improve their NCAA prospects this week and have specifically tapered their training in an effort to maximize season-best times.
Performing well individually in morning preliminaries and as relay foursomes at night ultimately has the greatest impact on team success. Individuals score points by qualifying for the A and B finals in the evening sessions after posting top 16 times in the prelims.
Purdue's last four Big Ten Champions have been divers, most recently Kara Cook's platform victory in 2008. Caitlin Hamilton, Ariel Martin and Cook all posted a second-place overall finish in at least one event last year at Big Tens. Martin and Cook closed out their college careers in 2011 and Hamilton is not competing this season, opting to redshirt due to injury.
With Purdue head diving coach Adam Soldati currently in England serving as a staff assistant with USA Diving at the FINA World Cup, diving video specialist and Purdue diving alumnus Josh Karshen is mentoring the Boilers' men's and women's divers this month.
As of the Jan. 25 CSCAA Top 25 coaches poll, six Big Ten Teams -- No. 12 Indiana, No. 14 Ohio State, No. 15 Minnesota, No. 17 Michigan, No. 19 Wisconsin and No. 20 Penn State -- were nationally ranked. A new set of rankings is likely to be released this week. Michigan and newcomer Nebraska were the only Big Ten teams that the Boilermakers did not compete against in either dual meet or invitational scoring action this season.