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Big Ten Championships: Women's swimming falls back to ninth place

BY TORK MASON | FEBRUARY 20, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa women's swimming and diving team entered the final day of the Big Ten championships hoping to achieve a top-half finish.

But it was not to be.

The Hawkeyes were 10.5 points out of sixth place entering the day, and they had what appeared to be a good chance to put athletes in the "A" and "B" final heats. But one by one, the Black and Gold was bumped out of scoring positions until only Becky Stoughton, Lauren Kelba, and the 400-freestyle relay team remained. They gave Iowa a total of 201 points, good for ninth place overall.

Head coach Marc Long said keeping up mentally when an athlete just misses the cut is a challenge.

"When you just miss the finals, it's hard to keep that position, because you want to be at the next level," he said. "Then you start swimming for best times, and that's no way to do athletics. You don't go into a basketball game trying to get your shooting percentage up; you want to win the game."

But both Long and senior captain Danielle Carty said Iowa has positives to take away from the week.

"A lot of us were getting into the bonus final, which we were disappointed with," Danielle Carty said. "But we all swam lifetime-bests this morning, so you can't ask for much more. We were happy with how we did, but it just wasn't enough to get into a scoring position."

Long said he was pleased with much of what he saw throughout the week — the Hawkeyes set seven school records over the course of the tournament — but admitted there's still work to do.

"It's hard to argue with how many school records we had," he said. "It was an outstanding week as far as school records, personal bests, and things like that. But clearly, we're a program that needs to move up."

Stoughton continued her season-long assault on the Iowa record books in the 1,650 freestyle. She broke her own record with a time of 16:14.14 minutes on her way to a sixth-place finish in the event. She also anchored the 400-freestyle relay team — which finished eighth after clocking a time of 3:21.66 minutes — and was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

"The expectations I had for myself were to just do the best that I can," the Peoria, Ill., native said. "I didn't have an 'I'm going to do this,' kind of goal. I can't complain. I'm really happy with how it turned out."

She also addressed her stamina, which was her most visible weakness throughout the week.

Stoughton quickly surged into the lead in all of her races but faded in the back half of the races. She said gaining that stamina — while still being able to "take it out fast" at the beginning of competitions — will be her main focus.

Kelba was the only Hawkeye diver to participate on the platform, but Michigan's Amanda Lohman edged out the sophomore by .55 points in the championship finals. Kelba placed seventh in the consolation round — after missing on one dive and balking on another — and 15th overall.

Minnesota walked away with the conference crown after beating Indiana, 680.5-651. The Gophers' Maggie Keefer was named Diver of the Year, and head coach Kelly Kremer was named Swimming Coach of the Year.

The Hawkeyes' season is now essentially over; they'll find out within the next few weeks if they'll send athletes to Auburn, Ala., for the NCAA championships on March 15-17.

Follow DI women's swimming reporter Tork Mason on Twitter.


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