Gophers struggle to fourth-place Big Ten finish

A tough weekend resulted in Minnesota’s worst finish since 1989.

Samuel Gordon

For the first time since 1989, the Minnesota menâÄôs swimming and diving team failed to finish in the top three at the Big Ten championships . The Gophers tallied 505.5 points and finished fourth behind Ohio State, Indiana and Michigan, which won its third championship in four years. Despite that fact, head coach Dennis Dale was pleased with the way his athletes performed. âÄúWe were very excited. We had a lot of lifetime bests,âÄù Dale said. âÄúAt a meet like this you hope for 100 percent lifetime bests, but you never get it. Every athlete on our team did at least one lifetime best performance.âÄù One of those athletes was senior Michael Richards, who became the first Big Ten swimmer since 1962-63 to repeat as champion in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles. Richards crushed the school, meet and conference records in the 50 freestyle prelims Thursday, clocking in at 19.10. He went on to win the event with a time of 19.19, bettering the second place finisher by more than half a second. âÄúIâÄôve had my sights set on that for the last two years,âÄù Richards said of the record. âÄúI was a bit peeved that I didnâÄôt get that last year, so this year I crushed it, and I was pretty happy with that.âÄù The All-American and Big Ten Swimmer of the Championships completed the freestyle sweep Saturday night with a win in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 43.20. âÄúIt shows you how tough it is to repeat in those two events,âÄù Dale said about RichardsâÄô performance. âÄúPeople have repeated in the 100, people have repeated in the 50, but nobody since 1963 has repeated in both of them, so that was special, and he also was a stalwart on our relays.âÄù Richards, along with senior Curt Carlson, junior Zach Bolin, and freshman Derek Toomey set a new Big Ten record in the 200-yard freestyle relay Friday, clocking in at 1:16.78, the first sub-1:17.00 in Big Ten history. Richards improved his 50-yard freestyle record to 19.05 with his split, giving the Gophers a nice-sized lead heading into the second leg. Carlson swam his split in 19.28, with Bolin following in 19.25. Toomey posted a 19.20 in the final leg to cement the victory and record . âÄúIt was incredible. I donâÄôt even know how to describe it. We have some of the best 50 freestylers on our team,âÄù Toomey said. âÄúIt was awesome just to be able to anchor that relay with four really strong guys. It meant the world to me. It was a really good bonding kind of experience.âÄù There were plenty of other bright spots for Minnesota aside from Richards and the relay team. Senior Ivan Gutesa swam his way to a school record and third-place finish in the 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:55.36. Junior Kris Jorgenson and senior Drew Brown finished second and third, respectively, in platform diving, finishing behind Diver of the Championships and Olympian David Boudia of Purdue. Toomey scored in all three of his events, recorded a personal best in the 100-yard freestyle and became the first Gophers freshman since 2004 to win a conference title with the victory in the 200-yard freestyle relay. Minnesota finished exactly where the rankings projected it would. The Gophers were the fourth of six Big Ten teams that were ranked nationally. The Big Ten champion Wolverines also finished accordingly, as they were the highest ranked Big Ten team. âÄúWe went into the meet knowing that there are three teams ranked ahead of us in the conference. We were hoping that we could knock one or two of them off, but that wasnâÄôt the case,âÄù Dale said. âÄúWe were excited by the outstanding performances that [our team] put up. Yet we know that if we want to compete for the Big Ten championship, weâÄôve got to do a better job recruiting outstanding athletes.âÄù