After completing its regular season just one meet shy of undefeated, the No. 22 Ohio State women’s swimming team is looking forward to taking its talents to West Lafayette, Indiana, for the Big Ten Championships beginning Wednesday.
Last year, the Buckeyes finished in fourth place with a total of 859 points, claiming four individual Big Ten titles as well as one relay title for five championships overall. This was the sixth time since 2010 that OSU earned a top-five finish, and the Buckeyes’ four individual titles and one relay title made the year the most successful one since 1991.
With four Big Ten teams ranked ahead of it, OSU will need strong performances by all swimmers to make a run. However, the main focus is on the factors that it’s able to control.
“When you’re at Ohio State, the expectation is to put together championship teams. So, we want to compete for Big Ten titles and be one of the ten best teams in the country, but the truth is we can’t control that,” OSU coach Bill Dorenkott said. “What we can control is putting the strongest, fittest, most prepared kids in the pool at Big Tens, and who we compete against is irrelevant.”
To ensure they do so, the team will be taking 25 swimmers to compete in Indiana, several of whom are returning Big Ten contenders, including senior Taylor Vargo.
During last year’s Big Ten Championships, Vargo finished fifth in the 100-yard breaststroke and eighth in the 200-yard breaststroke. She will be competing in both races again this year, as well as the 100-yard individual medley and possibly a relay.
This year, her personal goals are to enjoy her senior year, move up a couple of spots from last year and improve her times, Vargo said. However, her focus remains on the team rather than herself.
“I’d say we’re focusing more on preparing to go to Purdue and swim as a team, not as an individual,” Vargo said. “We always go through the mantra, ‘The goal is not to win, the goal is to improve.’ Whether it’s your technique, or half a fraction of a second, or moving up two spots — go in and swim your best. Focus on the little things.”
Vargo’s teammate, senior Lindsey Clary is another returning Big Ten contender who will be competing in the 400-yard individual medley, 500-yard freestyle and the 1,650-yard freestyle — all for the fourth consecutive year — at the Big Ten Championships.
Last year Clary set new OSU records in all three events and took home Big Ten titles in both the 400-yard individual medley and the 1,650-yard freestyle with times of 4:03.64 and 15:49.98 respectively. She will also be competing in the 800-yard freestyle relay.
Clary said she is looking forward to improving at the Big Ten Championships this year, and is hoping to inspire her teammates as well.
“Each year you want to get better. I was extremely happy with how I swam last year, so I want to repeat that and hopefully swim even faster,” Clary said. “Especially to put points up for my team because I know that if someone has a good swim it inspires everyone else, so I’m hoping to be that person for the team.”
In addition to Clary and Vargo, OSU has five other athletes who have posted top-10 times in the Big Ten this season including junior Meg Bailey, freshman Kathrin Demler, freshman Molly Kowal, junior Liz Li and senior Zulal Zeren.
“This is a good group. They’ve done the work, they’re well prepared, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do,” Dorenkott said. “We’re looking toward being our best for seven sessions, three and a half days in February. That’s what we want to do.”
The Big Ten Championships are set to begin Wednesday evening at the Boilermaker Aquatic Center in West Lafayette, Indiana. The competition runs through Saturday evening with preliminaries beginning Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 11 a.m. Finals begin each night at 6:30 p.m.