UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State’s women’s swimming and diving team had been knocking on the door of the automatic qualifying marks for the NCAA Championships all season, and on the opening night of the Big Ten Championships at Minnesota’s University Aquatic Center on Wednesday, it achieved its first NCAA ‘A’ cut time of the season.
The 200 medley relay opened the championships and after the water settled it will probably be one of the most competitive races of the weekend. Six schools finished within one second of one another, led by host Minnesota in 1:36.89. The Penn State quartet of Mackenzie Powers, Merritt Krawczyk, Carolyn Fittin and Paige Whitmire clocked a school record 1:37.97 to finish fifth. The time bested the mark set by Samantha Palser, Krawczyk, Powers and Whitmire at last season’s NCAA Championships and accounted for the first NCAA ‘A’ cut of the season for the Nittany Lions.
The second and final event of the opening day of the championships was the longest relay on the program. The 800 freestyle relay team of Alyson Ackman, Kaitlin Jones, Caitlyn Karr and Gabi Shishkoff nearly pulled off another school record effort, but touched the wall just shy of their mark set earlier this season. Their time of 7:08.97 was an NCAA B Cut time and good enough for a fourth-place showing.
Minnesota and Indiana are tied atop the team standings with 74 points each and Penn State is third with 58 points. In fourth, Michigan and Ohio State are knotted at 56 points, followed by Wisconsin (54), Purdue (50) and Nebraska (42). Northwestern and Iowa are tied in ninth place with 36 points each and Illinois is deadlocked with Michigan State in 11th place with 22 points.
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