Feb. 17, 2003

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COLUMBUS, Ohio– The Ohio State women’s swimming and diving team will resume competition Wednesday when it travels to West Lafayette, Ind. for the 2003 Big Ten Championships.

The competition spans four days and includes 21 events. The Buckeyes will look to post their fastest times of the season at the conference meet. In 2002, the team set eight season’s best times at the Big Ten championships.

Jeanne Fleck, Ohio State head coach, has high hopes for her team heading into the conference meet.

“Our goal is that everyone posts lifetime best times and moves up from where they’re seeded,” Fleck said. “Hopefully, we’ll have more people score than we did last year and we’ll improve our finish at Big Tens. We want to get in there and show everyone that we are moving in the right direction.”

Overall, however, she simply wants the athletes to feel they have had a successful season, setting the squad up for a successful 2003-04 campaign.

“I want the team to feel good about what they’ve worked for,” Fleck said. “We’ve had a very successful year. We had some bumps after Christmas with some injuries, so I want us to come out tougher, going out as gang-busters for next year.”

Standing in the way of a strong finish for the Buckeyes at the 2003 Big Ten Championships will be several strong teams in one of the best conferences is collegiate swimming. Five of the 11 Big Ten squads are ranked in the Top 25, according to the College Swimming Coaches Association of America. The list is headlined by Wisconsin at No. 10, followed by Penn State at No. 16. The Indiana Hoosiers, are ranked No. 17, while Michigan sits at No. 18. Purdue rounds out the Big Ten’s Top 25 delegation at No. 21.

“Our biggest competition is going to be Michigan State, Illinois and Iowa,” Fleck said. “Last year, at all levels, it was exciting. Everyone was battling it out for a place and that’s not going to change. Two years ago, all 11 teams scored in the Top 30 in the country and sent someone to NCAAs. As a conference, our goal is to do it again.”

The 2003 Big Ten Championships will consist of seven sessions in four days. The meet will begin on Wednesday with solely an evening session, while Thursday through Saturday will feature both a morning and an evening session.

Individual swimming events will include preliminary heats in the morning session of a given day, with the Top 16 competitors in each event advancing to the finals that evening. The Top 8 swimmers from preliminary heats race in the A-Final for the Big Ten championship in the respective event, while finishers nine through 16 race in the B-Final.

Diving will follow the same progression with the Top 8 in each preliminary competition advancing to finals that evening, vying for the conference title.

Relay events will be held during evening sessions and will feature no preliminaries. Each Big Ten squad fields one team which participates in one race for the conference championship.

If there is any member of the 2002-03 Buckeye squad with a history of winning at conference meets, it is senior diver Natalia Diea.

Prior to redshirting last season, Diea has locked down three-consecutive conference titles in the platform competition. As a member of the Texas Longhorns’ diving team, Diea won Big 12 platform diving championships in 1999 and 2000 and was named the 2000 Big 12 Diver of the Year. After transferring to Ohio State in 2000, she continued her winning ways by taking the becoming the 2001 Big Ten Platform Champion. Diea will vie for her fourth platform conference title in West Lafayette.

With an outstanding start in her first season as a Buckeye, freshman Deanna Strunk now owns team season’s best times in the 100 and 200 butterfly as well as both the 200 and 400 individual medleys. Her times in all four of these events rank in the Top 20 all-time in program history.

Strunk set season’s best marks in the 200 fly (2:04.13) and 400 IM (4:24.58) in a meet vs. Indiana on Jan. 11 and followed a week later vs. Michigan State by setting the team’s best time in the 200 IM at 2:07.31. Then, as a triple winner vs. Illinois and Iowa, she broke Kylie Lancken’s best time in the 100 fly, setting the new mark at 58.22.

The one-time Big Ten Female Swimmer of the Week (Dec. 3, 2002) now has racked up a team-best 19 first-place finishes in 2002-03, including seven in the team’s last three meets.

“Deanna has done so well all year long and her goal is to make NCAAs,” Fleck said. “She and (Stephanie Raezer) have set high goals for the 400 IM and are pushing each other to finish well. It’s exciting to see this out of a freshman and junior, who will be returning to our program.”

Junior Stephanie Raezer once again as been a force on the team, posting team season’s best times in four individual events and two relays.

Since posting Ohio State all-time Top 20 times in the 100 and 200-yard breaststrokes and the 200 individual medley this season, Raezer now owns Top 20 all-time marks in program history in four events and Top 10 times in three events.

The 2001-02 Ohio State Most Improved Swimmer has posted eight first-place finishes at dual meets this season and will vie for another impressive finish at the Big Ten Championships.

At the 2002 conference meet, the native of Newark, Del. scored in three events. She posted the fourth-best time in Ohio State history in the 400 IM at 4:22.91, finishing 13th in the conference. Her best finishes, however, were in the 500 and 1,650 freestyle, where she took 12th in both races. Her time of 16:48.43 in the mile was the sixth-fastest in Buckeye history.

Whatever happens this weekend at the Big Ten championships with Vince Panzano and his team of divers, the Buckeyes will be well represented at the upcoming NCAA Zone Qualifying meet to be held March 14-15 in Oxford, Ohio.

Buckeyes seniors Natalia Diea, Jillian Cicione and Melanie Johnson all will travel to the meet, hoping to qualify for the NCAA championships March 20-22 in Auburn, Ala.

All three have set the 250 mark in the 1-meter and the 270 mark in the 3-meter needed to qualify for the zone meet.

The Ohio State women’s swimming team experienced a monumental season, marking the best season under head coach Jeanne Fleck, finishing at 7-6.

The team started in impressive fashion, marking four consecutive wins and holding a 6-1 record heading into winter training. The Buckeyes began the season with a 130-113 win over in-state rival Ohio, then traveled to Morgantown, W.Va., where the team took out two opponents in a tri-meet, defeating West Virginia, 122-112, and Louisville, 149-85. The team won seven of 13 events at the meet.

The team returned home the following weekend posting its fastest times of the fall in meets on back-to-back days vs. Utah and at Miami (Ohio). Friday, the team ousted the Utes, 130-111, setting six team season’s best which still stand. Saturday, the team was handed its first loss of the season in Oxford in the form of a 172.50-127.50 decision to the RedHawks.

The Buckeyes closed up competition in the fall portion of the season with two solid victories. The team rebounded from the loss to Miami (Ohio) with a 138-102 victory over its third in-state opponent of the season, Bowling Green. The Buckeyes won nine events, with six different Buckeyes posting individual victories on the evening. The team then traveled to Cleveland State for its third consecutive Ohio opponent, defeating the Vikings, 130-70, and winning all but two races. For her efforts in the win, freshman Deanna Strunk was named Big Ten Female Swimmer of the Week.

It was rough sailing for the Buckeyes come 2003, however, where the team garnered a 1-5 record at dual meets. Ohio State began the year in positive fashion by defeating Akron, 140-103. Stephanie Raezer was the star of the meet, posting three individual victories, including a current team season’s best time in the 100-yard breaststroke. Natalia Diea swept diving events at the meet. Over the course of the season, Diea posted 10 wins, including four sweeps at dual meets.

The Buckeyes then entered an 0-5 stretch in Big Ten play, starting with a loss at the Mike Peppe Aquatic Center to nationally-ranked Indiana. After a close loss to Michigan State to close off the home schedule, the team fell to Illinois and Iowa in a tri-meet the following weekend. In the pair of losses, Strunk once again shined as a team leader as a triple winner. Strunk took home the gold in the 100 and 200-yard butterfly as well as the 200 individual medley.

The team closed off the season with a 177.5-109.5 loss to Northwestern in Evanston. Despite the loss, Strunk was once again a double individual winner as the team posted team season’s best times in two relays.

The Ohio State women’s swimming and diving team closed off its regular season with a 177.5-109.5 loss to the Northwestern Wildcats Saturday in Evanston, Ill. Deanna Strunk was a double winner, finishing first in the 100-yard butterfly (57.96) as well as the 200 individual medley (2:11.35). Strunk’s two wins give her a total of seven wins in her last three meets and a team-best 19 on the season. The Buckeyes finished the 2002-03 season 7-6 overall and 0-5 in Big Ten play.

In the loss, the Buckeyes set season’s best times in the 200 medley relay and the 500 freestyle. Amanda Treleaven, Stephanie Raezer, Strunk and Katie Severson combined to set the 200 medley relay mark at 1:50.57 in a second-place effort, while Raezer set the team’s mark in the 500 free at 5:00.71, also finishing in second.

While Strunk’s wins were the only first-place finishes the Buckeyes took on the afternoon in the swimming pool, the Buckeyes ruled the diving well. Natalia Diea took the 1-meter dive with a score for 284.40, while fellow senior Melanie Johnson scored her first gold finish of the season, taking the 3-meter (293.25) in just her second meet.

The Ohio State women’s swimming and diving team placed 11th at the Big Ten Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Ann Arbor, Mich. with 116 points. Penn State took first place with a score of 594, Indiana came in second (561) and Wisconsin placed third (447).

Of the 116 points scored by the Buckeyes, 99 were scored by freshman and sophomores. There also were 33 individual best times and 26 season best times (not including lifetime best times).

Coach Jeanne Fleck is in her fourth season at the helm of the Ohio State women’s swimming program looking for her team to display excellence both in the water and classroom. She has become accustomed to both throughout her coaching career.

The Buckeyes also excelled in the classroom with an overall grade point average of 3.34 last season.

It was no coincidence seven Buckeyes were named Academic All-Big Ten following the winter quarter and that 16 earned OSU Scholar-Athlete honors. As a unit, the Ohio State women’s swimming program took home team Academic All-America honors awarded by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) for the 2001-02 season. In three seasons, Fleck has engineered 25 Academic All-Big Ten selections and 41 OSU Scholar-Athlete honors. Fleck has geared the Buckeyes to one school record and two pool records.

Vince Panzano continues his legacy at Ohio State as he enters his 25th year as coach of the Buckeye men’s and women’s divers.

Panzano, who was named the 2002 Big Ten Diving Coach of the Year (the seventh time he has earned the honor) has produced one world champion, one junior world champion, two eight Americans.

Members of the Buckeye squad who post NCAA qualifying times and select individuals who post NCAA consideration times will compete in the 2003 NCAA Championships, March 20-22, in Auburn, Ala.