Men’s swimmers lead Michigan after first day of Big Tens

by Jim Schortemeyer

There was intensity in the air, and speed in the pool, as the Big Ten kicked off its men’s swimming and diving conference championships at Minnesota’s Aquatic Center.
The Gophers repeated their first-day performance from last year, etching out a meager lead over Michigan, 208-192. Last year Minnesota led the Wolverines 200-178 after the first day of competition before finishing in second place, 17 points behind Michigan.
“We know all to well that leading after the first day doesn’t mean you’re going to win the meet,” said Minnesota head coach Dennis Dale.
Both teams hold a commanding lead over Ohio State and Penn State, who battled to totals of 144 and 143.5, respectively.
One of the Gophers’ seniors pulled off a big day to take home a Big Ten Championship. Ty Bathurst qualified with a time of 19.80 in the 50-yard freestyle, just .04 shy of the school record, and good for the No. 1 seed in the evening’s finals. Bathurst finally won his individual championship, after taking home second place the previous two years.
It didn’t look good for Minnesota in another event. Michigan placed six of the eight swimmers in the final heat of the 500-yard freestyle, and jumped out to a 124-59 lead over the Gophers.
Minnesota climbed back into the meet on the strength of its showings in the 50-yard freestyle and 200-yard individual medley events. In the 50, Minnesota placed four swimmers in the top five. The margin separating second and fifth place was .04 seconds. In the medley, Minnesota had a third-place finish from Alex Massura, fifth from Jono Mcleod, and seventh from Yoav Meiri, while Michigan managed a sixth and eighth-place finish.
Massura went on to have an even bigger night in the 400-yard medley relay. Swimming the lead leg, Massura swam a school record in the 100 backstroke. The medley relay team automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships in March, but lost to Ohio State by more than a second.
The Gophers’ 200-yard freestyle relay team had a fast night as well. Minnesota nearly eclipsed the school record of 19.02, missing by .14 seconds.
“This is the fastest we’ve been in five or six years,” said relay team member Jeremy Rients.
The Gophers lost some expected points in Thursday’s 1-meter diving competition when freshman Dan Croaston finished 12th. Coaches anticipated he would place in the top eight.
Croaston will have a chance to rebound in today’s 3-meter event, but will face tough competition from Indiana, which had the top two divers in the 1-meter.
Minnesota is hoping to avoid the same fate it suffered last year. After jumping out to its 22 point lead, the Gophers slowly succumbed to the Wolverines over the next few days. Michigan coach Jon Urbanchek was satisfied with his team’s results.
“We figured we’d be down 20 to 30 points,” he said. “We knew the relays would make the difference.”
But Minnesota’s Luis Lopez and the rest of the team aren’t planning on letting this meet slip away like last year’s.
“It’s not going to be easy by any means,” Lopez said. “Every point counts.”