Gophers extend lead at Big Ten championships

Minnesota has won eight of 14 events at the event and holds a 151-point lead.

by Nate Gotlieb

Sophomore Becca Weiland set a conference record with her 100-yard butterfly victory as the Gophers stretched their lead at the women’s Big Ten swimming and diving championships Friday night.

The No. 12 Gophers have broken eight school records since the championships began Wednesday. With 573.5 points, they lead No. 13 Indiana (422.5) heading into final day of the championships at the University Aquatic Center. 

Penn State (342.5), Ohio State (263) and Purdue (238.5) round out the top five.

Minnesota won four events Friday, including its third relay of the championships. The team has won eight of 14 events and posted 30 top-10 finishes.

“We really have had about as good of a meet as we could expect,” head coach Kelly Kremer said.

Weiland set the school record in the 100 butterfly Friday morning (51.91 seconds) and broke it in the finals Friday night (51.61), claiming her first individual title of the championships. Her time Friday night also broke a Big Ten record.

“I’m at a loss for words right now,” Weiland said after Friday night’s meet. “It’s still sinking in.”

Weiland also won her third relay title Friday with a victory in the 400 medley relay (3:31.45).

Weiland and her medley relay team of Tess Behrens, Haley Spencer and Erin Caflisch opened the championships Wednesday with a victory in the 200 medley relay.  They set school records in both the 200 and 400 medley relay, but Kremer said he doesn’t think they’ve hit their full potential.

“Anytime you can win a Big Ten championship when the teams around you are that good, it’s real exciting,” Kremer said, “but all four of them, they know they can all go faster.”

Weiland and the rest of the Gophers’ butterfly swimmers helped the team break away from Indiana. The Gophers accrued 64 points in the 100 butterfly, placing five swimmers in the top 11, to open a 152-point lead over Indiana.  Indiana scored just three points in the event.

The Gophers stretched the lead to 176 after seven top-five finishes in the 200 freestyle and 100 breaststroke. Indiana cut it to 134 with a strong team performance in the 100 backstroke, but junior Maggie Keefer and the Gophers’ diving corps quelled any serious chance of a comeback in the 3-meter diving competition.

Keefer won the 3-meter dive, her second diving title of the championships, as the Gophers closed the night with a 151-point lead.

Day four of the championships kicks off Saturday at 11 a.m. with the preliminary rounds of the 200 backstroke, 100 freestyle, 200 breaststroke and 200 butterfly.  The finals for those events begin at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.

The championships run through Saturday night at the University Aquatic Center, but the Gophers have bigger aspirations.

“This is step one,” Kremer said.  “We need to go on to NCAAs after this and show the country really what we’ve been doing to prepare for that meet.”