Northwestern improved handsomely last season, its first under coach Abby Steketee.
After taking 10th at the 2014 Big Ten Championships –– the team’s lowest finish since 1983 –– the Wildcats scored more than three times as many points in 2015’s edition to finish eighth overall.
At Big Tens, NU was led by then-freshman diver Olivia Rosendahl who finished second in platform diving and went on to place fourth in the event at the NCAA Diving Championships.
The Cats also saw phenomenal swims from then-junior Melissa Postoll, who broke school records in the 200-yard backstroke and the 200-yard individual medley. Postoll wasn’t NU’s fastest swimmer in the 200 IM last season prior to the championship, but she smashed her personal best in the event during a morning preliminaries session and returned that evening to capture the school record.
Since that breakout meet at Big Tens, Postoll has been on a tear, qualifying for semifinals in the 200-meter backstroke at U.S. Olympic Trials, ultimately finishing 14th overall in the event.
Then-junior Annika Winsnes was the only other NU swimmer to compete in an individual championship final at Big Tens last season, where she swam a season-best 49.41 seconds to finish seventh in the 100-yard freestyle.
The Cats will return most of last year’s team for their 2016-17 campaign after losing only five seniors to graduation. In addition, their incoming freshman class has already been tested at swimming’s highest levels.
The Class of 2020 includes Sandra Freeman and Krystal Lara, both of whom competed at U.S. Olympic Trials in June, and Valerie Gruest Slowing, who earned the right to represent Guatemala in the 800 meter freestyle at the 2016 Olympic Games.
Slowing holds a dozen Guatemalan national records in freestyle and butterfly events, including the records for every long course freestyle distance except 50 meters.