For Richards and Carlson, it ends where it all began

Senior Minnesota natives Michael Richards and Curt Carlson will feel right at home at this weekend’s NCAA championships.

Samuel Gordon

Michael Richards and Curt Carlson got in the pool at the University Aquatic Center to shoot some footage for a television station on Wednesday afternoon.

They didnâÄôt have to, as it was the final day before the start of the NCAA championships, but they did, and it was a fitting way to begin the end of their careers.

Because for Richards and Carlson, itâÄôs going to end where it all began.

âÄúIâÄôm a Minnesota native, and just being here for my last year of college swimming, itâÄôs my seventeenth year of swimming and itâÄôs been a long road, all in Minnesota,âÄù Carlson said. âÄúMe and Mike have been racing each other for such a long time âÄî itâÄôs a lot of fun.âÄù

The last of those races will most likely occur this weekend, in front of family and friends at the University of Minnesota.

This will be MinnesotaâÄôs seventh time hosting the national championships, and the fifth time since the opening of the University Aquatic Center in 1990.

The weekend will be especially meaningful to Richards and Carlson. Of the seven Gophers seniors who will be swimming their final collegiate race this weekend, only the two of them are Minnesota natives.

Richards joined the Gophers in 2007 following a record-setting career at Roseville High School. From day one he was a standout. As a freshman, Richards set a school freshman record in the 50-yard freestyle, and finished third at the Big Ten championships.

Since then, heâÄôs been honored as an All-American nine different times, won four Big Ten titles and set school records in both the 50-yard freestyle and the 200-yard freestyle relay.

Carlson shares a similar story.

After winning consecutive state titles in both the 100- and 200-yard freestyles at Maple Grove High School, Carlson decided to continue his career at Minnesota, and like Richards, boasts a brilliant college career.

Carlson is a 10-time All-American, was part of the 2011 Big Ten champion 200-yard freestyle relay team and holds school records in the 100-yard freestyle and the 200 and 800 freestyle relays.

âÄúJust being able to have the home crowd here is going to be a huge advantage for our team and myself and in general, so thatâÄôs going to be great,âÄù Carlson said.

Richards echoed the sentiments of his teammate.

âÄúI donâÄôt even have to get out of my comfort zone to swim in this meet. I wake up, walk across the street and swim,âÄù he said.

 âÄúA lot of fans will be here, a lot of family members will be able to make the trip because itâÄôs close. ItâÄôs a great opportunity for them because for some of them, itâÄôll be their first swim meet that they come and watch.âÄù

Those who do come out this weekend are in for a treat.

Richards has recorded the second fastest time in the nation this year in the 50-yard freestyle with a 19.05. The only faster time was recorded by Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian of California. Adrian has clocked a time of 18.91 this season, and holds the American record of 18.71, which he recorded in 2009.

Richards and Carlson are both part of the 200 freestyle relay that is currently ranked third in the nation. A top-16 finish would clinch the 10th straight All-America honor for Minnesota in the event, and the fourth consecutive honor for Richards. Carlson is chasing the same goal in the 400-yard free relay.

âÄúI just want to go best times; I want to have some fun,âÄù Carlson said. âÄúWith the competition level here, itâÄôs hard to do bad so itâÄôs going to be a lot of fun.âÄù