WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Eight members of Purdue women's swimming and diving will represent the Boilermakers this week at the marquee event of the season, the three-day NCAA Championships in Indianapolis.
Competition is set for Thursday through Saturday at the IU Natatorium on the campus of IUPUI. Indianapolis is serving as the host city of the Women's NCAA Championships for the eighth time since 1984 and for the first time since 2000. Morning preliminaries begin daily at 11 a.m. and evening finals are set for 7 p.m. ESPN3 and WatchESPN will offer free live video webcast coverage of the finals sessions on Friday and Saturday nights.
Mercer (Fishers) and Sheets (Carmel) are both from suburban Indianapolis and Gustafson's hometown (Columbus, Ind.) is only 45 miles south of the Circle City. A number of their teammates are also planning on making the short trip from West Lafayette to Indianapolis to provide support from the stands.
Next week the Purdue men will also be represented by eight members of the program at the national championship meet, which is set to be held in Indianapolis as well. It will mark the fourth time since 1989 that both the Men's and Women's NCAA Championships are held in the same city. Indianapolis was also the dual host in 1989.
Matthews is making her third appearance at NCAAs and first since 2010. Gustafson, Nichols and Sheets are all there for the second time. Gustafson and Nichols were part of Purdue's 2011 qualifying relays and Sheets made it individually as a freshman last season.
Cabassol, Davis and Petric join Emily Fogle, Matthews and Sheets as active Boilers to qualify for the NCAA Championships as freshmen.
The top 16 finishers in the afternoon preliminaries advance to the finals and assure themselves of All-America honors as well as scoring team points for their schools. The top eight qualify for the championship finals. The ninth through 16th place finishers in prelims compete in the consolation finals later in the day, those spots being Honorable Mention All-America.
The Boilermakers will compete in the 200 free relay Thursday, the 800 free relay Friday and the 400 free relay Saturday. Gustafson will race individually in the 50 free Thursday and 100 free Saturday. Sheets' individual races are the 200 free Friday and 200 fly Saturday.
Cabassol and Matthews finished one-two in the 3-meter diving competition last week at the NCAA Zone C Diving Championships at the Boilermaker Aquatic Center to punch their tickets to NCAAs. Cabassol will have the opportunity to compete in all three diving disciplines while Matthews will focus on the springboard events.
Gustafson's time of 48.78 in the 100 free from the Big Ten Championships ranked 22nd nationally. Sheets' times in the 200 fly (1:57.09, 26th) and 200 free (1:45.97, 36th) were also among the top 38 automatic qualifiers.
Matthews placed fifth in the 3-meter competition at the 2010 NCAA Championships to earn All-America honors. She is also a two-time Honorable Mention All-American on the 1-meter springboard, finishing ninth in 2010 and 12th in 2009. She missed the last two seasons due to injury.
Gustafson swam on Purdue's 400 and 800 free relays that garnered Honorable Mention All-America recognition at the 2011 NCAA Championships. The Boilers set program records that still stand in all three freestyle relay events that season. Nichols was also part of the 200 free relay team, competing in that event at the national championship meet.
Sheets raced individually in the 200 free and 200 fly at NCAAs a year ago, establishing a new program record in the 200 free in the process.
Fogle would have also earned an invitational to NCAA Championships for the third consecutive year. She posted an NCAA automatic qualifying time (59.34) in the 100 breaststroke while breaking the program record at the Purdue Invitational in November. However, a hip injury ended Fogle's season early. She is expected to receive a medical redshirt and return for the 2013-14 campaign as a junior.