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Golden Gopher: Waddell makes a splash at first Big Ten meet

At the recent Big Ten Women's Swimming and Diving Championships, panic set in prior to Tevyn Waddell's 100 backstroke final. But 52.09 seconds later, she was overwhelmed with shock. The Mitchell native won the race in dramatic fashion and it star...

Mitchell native Tevyn Waddell swims during the Minnesota Invitational Nov 10, 2016 in Minneapolis. Waddell, a Mitchell native, was named the Big Ten Conference's Freshman of the Year in women's swimming and diving on Saturday. (Photo by Craig Lassig via University of Minnesota)
Mitchell native Tevyn Waddell swims during the Minnesota Invitational Nov 10, 2016 in Minneapolis. Waddell, a Mitchell native, was named the Big Ten Conference's Freshman of the Year in women's swimming and diving on Saturday. (Photo by Craig Lassig via University of Minnesota)

At the recent Big Ten Women's Swimming and Diving Championships, panic set in prior to Tevyn Waddell's 100 backstroke final.

But 52.09 seconds later, she was overwhelmed with shock.

The Mitchell native won the race in dramatic fashion and it started with some uneasiness before the finals.

"My backstroke wedge, I couldn't get it to come down and lock," Waddell said. "I was panicking and I talked to my teammates after and they said they were panicking about that whole thing, but it ended up locking. Everything went fine."

Waddell still needed to come-from-behind to win the race, which was in West Lafayette, Indiana. At the final turn in the 25-yard pool, Waddell was tied for third but was able to cover the length of the pool in 13.25 seconds for the win.

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Waddell, who had the conference's top time entering the race, edged Michigan's Clara Smiddy by two-hundredths of a second. The top three places were separated by nine-hundredths of a second.

"I didn't really register it at first when I touched and I looked at the scoreboard," Waddell said. "I remember I saw it, but I didn't register that the one was next to my name and when I actually did realize it, I was so surprised. I didn't actually think I would get it."

After covering her mouth in shock for several seconds and hugging teammate Zoe Avestruz and competitor Elizabeth Nelson from Wisconsin, Waddell was mobbed by teammates after jumping out of the pool.

"It was a moment that I'll remember for probably the rest of my life," Waddell said.

It was also a weekend to remember for the freshman. The former Mitchell Aquatic Club swimmer was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. It's the third time in school history a Minnesota swimmer has won the award. Waddell was also named to the All-Big Ten first team. She said was the atmosphere was much different at the Big Ten meet than the U.S. Olympic Trials last summer in Omaha, Nebraska.

"I have never experienced anything like it," Waddell said. "The trials atmosphere was huge and amazing, but honestly, the Big Ten was completely different. It was so loud because all the teams are cheering and the parents are cheering. It is just a smaller space than at trials. I just remember being in the blocks-especially during relays-and not even really being able to hear myself think."

She claimed five total medals at the meet. She was a member of the Gophers' 200 medley relay team that won gold. Waddell's 400 medley relay won silver, while the 800 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay teams won bronze.

"Tevyn is just getting started," Minnesota coach Kelly Kremer said in a release. "She should be proud of how she carries herself. She has earned the success."

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Waddell, a biology major, helped the Gophers' women finish fourth at the Big Ten meet as a team. They scored 1,086 total points to finish behind Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. The Wolverines compiled 1,287 points for the win.

Waddell now hopes to use the experience as a springboard for the NCAA Championships on March 15-18 in Indianapolis.

"This weekend is definitely a confidence booster," Waddell said. "I never looked at myself as one of the bigger swimmers in the Big Ten, but after this week, I definitely have a lot more confidence in myself going into NCAAs."

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