Success of relay teams buoys team at Big Tens

Minnesota qualified three relay teams for NCAAs at last week’s Big Tens.

Matt Perkins

As the water evaporated from the swimmers after conference swimming and diving championships, teams already had begun preparing individuals for the NCAA Championships.

As was the case for Minnesota’s men’s swimming and diving team.

The Gophers automatically qualified three of their five relay teams for the NCAA Championships in Atlanta, which are March 23 to 25, and their other two relay teams qualified for NCAA consideration with their times.

Although Minnesota finished in second place as a team at the Big Ten Championships, the team met its goal of sending plenty of individuals to NCAAs.

“There is no question we swam our best at Big Tens,” coach Dennis Dale said. “We did not have any A cuts in any of the relays going into Big Tens. All we had were B cuts.”

The Gophers had done well in relay events all season long, making it a goal to finish first and second with both their A and B teams at every meet.

“That’s something we talked about before the meets is going one-two,” junior Dan Berve said. “It’s always something we want and it’s something that helps us swim faster.”

And they swam fast at Big Tens.

Minnesota’s 400-yard freestyle relay team of Igor Cerensek, Adam Mitchell, Mario Delac and Tyler Schmidt automatically qualified for NCAAs with a winning time of 2 minutes, 52.90 seconds.

Mitchell, a senior who qualified for NCAAs in individual events as well, also qualified as part of the Gophers 800-free relay team that finished second behind Michigan at Big Tens with a time of 6:23.88.

Cerensek, a junior who was a part of the 800-free relay team as well as the 400-free team, also helped the Gophers 400-medley relay team qualify for the NCAA Championships with a third place time of 3:10.48.

Minnesota’s 400-medley relay is one of the team’s worst relays, Dale said, but it put together a great showing with the help of Cerensek.

“I’m kind of a firm believer that you go with the hot hand,” Dale said. “Igor had the hot hand, was asked to step up and ended up doing a great job.”

Cerensek is also part of the Gophers 200-medley relay team that had a provisional NCAA qualifying time of 1:27.16, good for a third-place finish at Big Tens. As of now, the team expects their time to be good enough for an NCAA invite, Dale said.

The team’s strong finish in relay events at the Big Ten Championships says a lot about the chemistry the team maintained all season long.

“This is a true team atmosphere,” Mitchell said. “You don’t have to think about carrying the team on your back because this is a team where everyone can make things happen.”