WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The 22nd-ranked Purdue women’s swimming and diving team hosts the Big Ten Championships starting Wednesday inside the Boilermaker Aquatic Center.
“We are very excited for this upcoming week,” head coach John Klinge said. “The team has made a lot of progress this season, and we are looking forward to seeing all of their hard work pay off with some great performances at the Big Ten Championships.”
The Boilermakers, who have been ranked all season, finished their campaign with a 6-3 mark in dual meets. The win total was the team’s highest since 2005-06, and the Boilermakers’ five-meet winning streak to start the season was the longest since the 2005-06 squad won six in a row.
Senior Ashley Karnes is set to defend her conference championship off the 1-meter in her home pool. The Bloomington, Ind., native won the lowest springboard and captured co-Diver of the Championships honors, an award she shared with 2008 Olympian Christian Loukas, at last year’s championship meet. Karnes also finished second off the 3-meter to record her highest career finish at the conference championships on both boards.
Sophomore Casey Matthews enters the weekend trying to hold on to the Doris Z. Holloway Pool record in the 3-meter. The Getzville, N.Y., native currently holds the record after scoring 380.10 points Jan. 9 against Michigan State to better the previous record of 370.20 held by Karnes. The two athletes have tugged the record back and forth this season. Karnes held the record at 363.50 entering the season, and Matthews scored 365.40 against Northwestern on Nov. 7 to hold it until Karnes posted her score Nov. 20 during the Purdue Invitational.
Juniors Kara Cook and Erin Mertz round out the Boilermakers’ diving contingent. Cook won the conference crown off the platform as a freshman, a season in which she also earned All-America acclaim by finishing third at the NCAA Championships. Mertz enters her first Big Ten Championships after transferring from Kansas before the season started. The Omaha, Neb., native became the first Jayhawk All-American diver since 1996 when she placed seventh in the 1-meter last season. She also scored from all three boards at last year’s Big 12 Championships.
Purdue enters this year’s championships with eight times recorded by four swimmers ranked in the top 10 in the conference. Junior Ariel Martin leads the way as she ranks second in the 200-yard freestyle, third in the 50 freestyle and fourth in the 100 freestyle. Martin is provisionally qualified for the NCAA Championships in all three events and has led off Purdue’s 200, 400 and 800 freestyle relays that also have eclipsed the provisional standard.
Freshman Caitlin Hamilton, who holds Purdue’s program record in the 1,000 freestyle and freshman records in the 500 and 1,650 freestyle events, ranks fifth in the 1,650 freestyle and eighth in the 500 freestyle. The Normal, Ill., native is provisionally qualified at the 500 and 1,650 distances, while the 1,000 is not contested at the championship meets.
Junior Allie Smith enters the championships ranked sixth in the conference in the 100 backstroke with her NCAA `B’ cut time of 55.11 seconds. The Green Bay, Wis., native, who holds program records in the 100 and 200 backstroke events as well as the 200 IM, also ranks seventh in the 200 backstroke. Seraphina Van is seventh in the 200 breaststroke with her time of 2:16.16. The Cypress, Texas, native broke Purdue’s freshman record and moved to third on the program’s all-time performance list in the event with her time, which also betters the NCAA provisional standard.
The Boilermakers placed sixth with 290 points at last year’s Big Ten Championships. During the four days of competition, Purdue broke 12 school records and three freshman records while recording 50 season-best marks. The team’s highest finish is fourth, which was recorded in 1991 and 1992. The 1991 squad scored 431.5 points, which is the most points totaled at a single championships in program history.
The Big Ten Championships begin Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. ET with a session featuring the 200 medley relay and 800 freestyle relay. Thursday, Friday and Saturday each feature morning and evening sessions, with preliminary swims beginning at 11 a.m. and finals starting at 6:30 p.m. A complete schedule of events, ticket information, live video and live results can be found at purduesports.com.