Columbus, Ohio—It’s that time of year again; the 2016 Big Ten Championships are just a couple days away for Ohio State’s women’s swimming and diving teams. The meet will run from Wednesday, February 17 through Saturday, February 20 and will be held at Canham Natatorium on the campus of the University of Michigan. Fans interested in attending the Championships can visit this link, which contains all relevant information regarding tickets, parking, and everything else needed to enjoy the opportunity to cheer on your Buckeyes.
The full event schedule can be found here. Wednesday’s opening session will be comprised of solely the 200 medley relay and 800 freestyle relay finals, and it is the only day without a morning session. Every other day will include a prelim session that will begin at 11 a.m. and an evening finals session that begins at 6:30 p.m. On Saturday there will be an additional 4:15 finals session especially for the 1,650 freestyle event.
Follow the Action
Not planning on attending this week? No problem! The first six sessions of the 2016 Big Ten Championships -- Wednesday evening, Thursday morning/evening, Friday morning/evening, Saturday morning -- will be shown live via BTN Plus (subscription required).
The final session of the meet -- Saturday night -- will be available live via BTN2Go to fans with a Big Ten Network subscription through their cable provider. It will also air tape-delayed on the Big Ten Network at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 22
In the Rankings
The Big Ten is well represented in the CSCAA’s Top 25, with seven schools from the conference earning a spot, including Ohio State. The other six ranked schools are: Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin; along with those schools Iowa, Nebraska, and Northwestern also appear in CollegeSwimming.com’s top 50.
Ohio State at Big Tens
Ohio State has won five team Big Ten championships - consecutive between 1982-86 under coach Jim Montrella. The Buckeyes have also won 85 Big Ten swimming, diving and relay titles.
- 49 swimming individual champions; last was Ashley Vance (200 IM)
- 24 diving champions; last was Cheyenne Cousineau in 2012 (platform)
- 12 relay wins; last came in 1991 (400 and 800 freestyle relays)
Last Year at Big Tens
The 2015 Big Ten Championships were held right here in Columbus at McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion, and several school records fell over the course of the four days: 200 Medley Relay – Liz Li, Ashley Vance, Annelise Sprau, Annie Jongekrijg (1:37.55); 50 Freestyle – Liz Li (22.03); 200 Freestyle Relay – Liz Li, Annie Jongekrijg, Macie McNichols, Rachael Dzierzak (1:29.41); 400 IM – Lindsey Clary (4:08.07); 100 Breaststroke – Rachael Dzierzak (59.61); 1650 Freestyle – Lindsey Clary (16:03.75).
When it was all said and done, four Buckeyes were named to the Second Team All-Big Ten team based on their performances: Clary, Dzierzak, Li, and Vance.
A Chat with the Coaches
Now in his eighth season at the helm of Ohio State’s women’s swimming program, head coach Bill Dorenkott will be leading his team into yet another Big Ten Championship meet. The Buckeyes have finished the season in the top half of the Big Ten every year since 2010, and Dorenkott believes this year’s team will absolutely extend that streak.
“I’m excited,” he said. “We’ve put in the work and we have a great group of kids. Of course we’ve already got a couple girls who’ve qualified for NCAA’s (Liz Li and Lindsey Clary) and our hope is to get the biggest group possible to qualify for NCAA’s and we want to do it this upcoming week.”
Compared with last year’s team, this season has seen a higher volume of individual success. In 2014-15 there were 12 NCAA provisional times recorded by Buckeye swimmers; this season, that number of B times has more than doubled, not even including the A times by Clary and Li. Though it’s easy to rush judgment and say that the team is that much better this season, Dorenkott notes that the above numbers aren’t just an indication of what’s been done in 2015-16. The foundation for this individual improvement was being formed well before this season started.
“I’m very much of the thought that I’m a developmental coach and that this is a developmental program,” Dorenkott said. “Development is all relative; you can have kids who are trying to earn a spot on their country’s Olympic team, and you can have kids who are trying to score individually at the Big Tens. That all takes time. So when you look at our sophomore, junior, and senior classes you see kids who’ve been putting in the work for 12, 24 months and they’re starting to reap the rewards of that work. And that’s the most satisfying part of the job, to see the kids improve. In our program in particular I think you really see more improvement across four years than any other program in the country.”
Add all that together and you have a recipe for a team that’s ready to compete at a high level this week, a sentiment that’s shared by Dorenkott and his coaching staff.
“I’m pumped. This year has gone better than expected,” he said. “It’s gone better from the standpoint of teambuilding and culture, which has led to some terrific practices and a higher level of belief.”
He continued: “And I give a lot of credit for that to the resources we have here at Ohio State. Whether it’s sports nutrition or sports psychology; we have an outstanding sports medicine staff. Luke Tipple, our strength coach, has done an outstanding job as well. Plus we’ve brought in some outside consultants this year to work with us on our underwater kicking and teambuilding. We’ve really exposed our kids to a lot this year and they’ve taken to it. We really are blessed with the kids of resources we have here.”
Among those resources that Ohio State swimmers are blessed with is the Buckeyes’ home turf, McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion. After hosting last year’s Big Ten Championships, Dorenkott noted that there will be a difference in competing at a new venue, but that it’s nothing the team is going to spend any time worrying about.
“We’ve talked a lot about it,” Dorenkott said of swimming away from home for these conference championships. “We’re blessed with the best facility in the country and arguably the world. We know that if we’re going to have the meet we want that it’ll be solely because of what we do as a team and as individuals.”
“I think the idea of belief is that it’s a twofold process: there’s individual belief and shared belief. When you have shared belief within a team it enables some people to have a stronger sense of individual belief. I think we’ll see some really courageous swims this week, I’m very excited. I think it’s a very supportive environment. We’re going to have some kids taking risks, and if they fall a little bit short at least they’ll be falling forward.”
Head diving coach Justin Sochor entered the 2015-16 season, his third in control of Ohio State divers, with a few new faces and a roster full of solely underclassmen. In fact, both of the divers competing this week- Haley Allen and Hannah Thek- have never competed at Big Tens before. Despite that, Sochor says both his Buckeyes are ready to dive this week.
“We’re really excited,” he said. “I think our mental preparation and our excitement outweigh the anxiety and nervousness. They both seem very excited to get there and show off what they can do.”
“We train all the time,” Sochor continued. “When it comes to this time of year, all the hay’s in the barn. The training’s done. So we’re focused on them being excited to dive, being well-rested, uninjured.”
“What they can do” is succeed. Thek, who was named the Big Ten Diver of the Week last week, has 16 first place event finishes this season and has yet to lose an event this calendar year. Texas-native Allen, just a freshman, has placed in the top-three of every event she’s competed in save for a few.
Sochor notes that the women’s team is still a bit smaller than his ideal, but he has nothing but praise for his group of divers and how they’ve competed (and will compete) in arguably the best conference in the nation.
“It makes me so excited for the future, because we’re still in the building stages,” said Sochor. “I’m being really cautious in adding the right people onto this team. Because if you have the right people with the right attitude in your program, it makes it a lot easier to get better. You can bring in the best divers in the world and if the attitude’s not right then the team as a whole will get worse.”