WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana—It was an historic night for the Indiana women's swimming and diving program as Kate Fesenko became the first IU swimmer to win a national title with a victory in the 200 backstroke at the 2010 NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships in West Lafayette, Ind.
As a team Indiana placed 10th with 133 points. It is the third-straight year that the Hoosiers have finished 10th at the NCAA meet. Three of Indiana's five top-10 finishes in program history have come under the direction of head coach Ray Looze. Florida won the national title with 382 points in a race that came down to the final event.
"This was a wonderful night for us," Looze said. "It began this morning with some outstanding prelims and culminated tonight with a national champion. I couldn't ask for anything more from our team. I am just so very proud of these ladies. Every one of them contributed in some way."
Fesenko ran away from the field and destroyed her school and Big Ten record with a time of 1:49.92, becoming the first Big Ten swimmer to break the 1:50 barrier. Fesenko was 3/100ths of a second off the lead after the first 50 yards but took the lead for good at the 100 yard mark with a split of 53.90. She held a little over a half a second on the field after 150 yards as she brought home the win. The win denied Florida's Gemma Spofforth her fourth-consecutive 200 back title.
"It is a great feeling knowing that in this race, at this time, I was just a little bit faster than her," Fesenko said. "I don't really think about winning or losing; I was ready to race and give my best to try to win. It is a great feeling, and representing IU is really important to me. For the past three years I have really enjoyed being with this team. It is a great team with great coaches."
"It is really hard to think about this moment because it is off-the-chart incredible," said assistant head coach for women's swimming Pam Swander. "This has been Kate's goal all season long. We purposely did not rest or shave for Big Tens, and she came out on Saturday of that meet and performed well. Today, even with the distraction of doing the double (200 back and 200 butterfly), she was able to take control of that race and lead it from beginning to end.
"This is so historical. It is something that doesn't happen overnight. She has been with us three years now, and everything along the way we have done, the World Championships meets, the Olympics, prepared her for this moment. It sets the standard for these women that are here. They admire the athletic ability that it takes to do that."
Fesenko qualified third for the championship final swimming a leisurely 1:53.01 to win the final heat. Freshman Taylor Wohrley just missed out on the consolation final with a career-best time of 1:55.01, placing 18th. Ashley Jones took fourth in her heat and 28th overall with a time of 1:56.05, roughly 5/10ths of a second off her career best of 1:55.44 set at the Big Ten Championships last month.
It was a culmination of an outstanding career for Fesenko. She leaves Indiana as a 13-time All-American with six Big Ten individual titles and four top-five finishes at the NCAA Championships.
Fesenko joins divers Amy McGrath (1M-1980), Lona Foss (1M-1982), Kimiko Hirai (1M-1996), Cassandra Cardinell (platform-2005) and Christina Loukas ( 3M-2009) as individual national champions for the Hoosiers.
Allysa Vavra finished 14th in the 200 breaststroke after posting a time of 2:10.69 in the consolation final. Vavra narrowly missed out on the championship final with a lifetime best of 2:10.50 in the prelims. That time ranks just outside the Hoosiers' all-time top five, coming in at sixth fastest in school history.
Just minutes after her record-setting performance in the 200 backstroke, Fesenko was back in the pool for the consolation final of the 200 butterfly. Having left a little something in the tank, Fesenko finished fourth in the heat and 12th overall with a time of 1:55.77. Fesenko earned her spot in the B final of the 200 butterfly with a time of 1:56.40, taking fourth in her heat and 11th overall. Brittany Barwegen took first in heat two with a season-best time of 1:57.47, placing 20th overall.
Appearing in her first championship final, Amy Korthauer placed fifth in the platform competition with a score of 287.75 Korthauer qualified for the championship final after putting up a score of 304.40, which put her third overall. Gabby Agostino made the consolation final, placing 11th in prelims with a score of 262.80. She went on to a final tally of 16th with a score of 233.30 in the consols.
Swimming the grueling 1,650 freestyle, Nikki White finished 12th with a time of 16:08.52. That is the eighth-fastest time in school history and the fourth fastest of White's career. White finished 10th in the 1,650 free as a freshman in 2009. The swim wrapped up a solid NCAA meet, with White scoring in every event she swam and earning five All-America honors in the mile, 800 freestyle relay, 200 freestyle, 400 freestyle relay and the 500 freestyle. She is now a seven-time All-American for her career.
"Last year I think I was stressing over the pressure since I did really well my freshman year," White said. "This year, since I broke my foot at the beginning of the year, I don't think people expected me to go as fast or place as high, so I wasn't as nervous going into my races, and that helped a lot. It was a lot easier for me to swim since I was a lot calmer and it was a better experience."
The night ended with the 400 freestyle relay as Donna Smailis, Brittany Strumbel, Taylor Wohrley and Margaux Farrell finished 13th overall with a time of 3:19.12. Closing out the morning prelims, Smailis, Strumbe, White and Farrell took fourth in their heat and 10th overall with a time of 3:17.50 to qualify for the consolation final. Smailis led off with a 49.44 split on her 100, and White entered the water with the Hoosiers holding the fourth spot. Farrell dove in on the anchor and held off the trailers for the fourth-place finish.