Gophers men roll on at Minnesota Invite

Minnesota destroyed the 11-team field with a three-day meet total of 1,443.5 points.

by Dan Miller

Minnesota’s men’s swimming and diving team nearly doubled its nearest competition after the first day of the Minnesota Invitational.

But coach Dennis Dale wasn’t satisfied, he said.

“Our relays were subpar,” he said of the Gophers’ performance Friday. “We really made it our focus to do well in the relays.”

The sixth-ranked Gophers, who ultimately blew away the 11-team competition with 1,443.5 points by the end of competition Sunday, responded by dominating relay action Saturday.

Minnesota’s team of Terry Silkaitis, Sean McCaffrey, Adam Mitchell and Justin Mortimer set the nation’s best current time in the 800-yard free relay by more than four seconds. The team’s time of 8:33.03 is also an NCAA provisional cut time.

The team of Dan Berve, Sean Kelly, Neil Osten and Silkaitis won easily in the 200 medley relay, swimming nearly two seconds faster than Wisconsin’s second-place team.

But the Gophers’ individual performances were just as good.

Mortimer broke his own meet record set in 2001 in the 1,650 freestyle by almost four seconds with a time 15:15.37, which was also an NCAA provisional qualifying time.

“I’m just glad that I’m faster after three years,” Mortimer said. “For this time of the year, with the training that we’ve gone through, I’m happy with the time.”

The Gophers’ solid performances throughout their lineup over the weekend put on display their well-rounded squad.

“We demonstrated the depth we have as a team,” Dale said. “We know that we have seniors who will perform. But what has made the difference is the hard work of the rest of the guys who are really stepping up to the plate.”

Minnesota will travel to the Georgia Invitational on Dec. 3 in Athens, Ga.

Minnesota, with one loss this season to fourth-ranked Florida, holds its highest national ranking ever.

“I think other people are starting to realize that we are a pretty good team,” Mortimer said.

Women win with help

Without Wisconsin – who led most of the weekend – competing in the finals Sunday, Minnesota’s women’s swimming and diving team ended up on top of its Minnesota Invitational this weekend at the University Aquatic Center with 913 points.

After Saturday, the Gophers were in second place behind the Badgers, 745-567. Without Wisconsin in the finals, Minnesota closed the gap quickly.

On Friday, the Gophers’ 200 free relay team of Katy Coombe, Jennifer Hasling, Sara Vine and Sarah Perrott finished behind the Badgers and took second place with a time of 1:34.43.

“It was nice to race against Wisconsin and see where we stand,” Vine said. “We all swam really well, and I think it was a good indicator that we will be right where we want to be.”

On Sunday, Perrott and Coombe finished one-two in the 100 free. Perrott was clocked at 51.60, and Coombe came in at 51.93.

The Gophers next compete when they go to the Georgia Invitational on Dec. 3 in Athens, Ga.

“We need to build on these performances as we gear up for the Big Ten Championships,” co-coach Terry Nieszner said.