Big Ten title streak snapped at Indiana with second place

The Gophers finished second to host Indiana at the Big Ten Championships.

Matt Perkins

For the past two years, Minnesota’s men’s swimming and diving team has been able to say it was the best in the Big Ten by showing off a Big Ten title.

Not anymore.

Indiana pulled away early and the Gophers were unable to make up the necessary ground, finishing second with 652 points, 107.5 points behind the Hoosiers.

But the second-place finish does mean the Gophers have finished the season on top of the Big Ten or runner-up for the past 17 years.

That says “consistency.”

And it says even more considering the conference strength has grown dramatically over the past 10 years, coach Dennis Dale said.

“I really think that the Big Ten this year was so big, so strong,” Dale said. “You look 10 years ago and there were only two teams – Minnesota and Michigan. Now you’ve got everyone up to that level, making it a much stronger conference.”

Although the second-place team finish was a bit disappointing, the Gophers did accomplish their secondary goal of qualifying more swimmers for the NCAA Championships next month.

Minnesota automatically qualified four individuals in one event by virtue of Adam Mitchell, Igor Cerensek, Mario Delac and Tyler Schmidt winning the 400-yard freestyle relay to close out competition Saturday.

The Gophers A team clocked a time of 2:52.90, edging out Northwestern’s time of 2:53.11.

“Relays, especially in a meet like this, can really get a lot of positive energy going,” junior Dan Bervy said. “And we’re a team that loves to use it.”

Mitchell’s performance as part of the 400 free relay team was the exclamation point to a fantastic Big Ten Championship.

And it’s fitting that Minnesota’s most consistent swimmer over the past four years, senior Adam Mitchell, had a dominating showing for the Gophers.

Mitchell set a Big Ten record with his win in the 200 individual medley Thursday night, clocking a time of 1:44.64.

But Mitchell wasn’t finished.

He followed up his Big Ten record-setting performance with a school-record time of 3:44.43 in the 400 IM Friday night, finishing second in the event to Michigan’s Alex Vanderkaay.

Still not done, Mitchell went on to set another Minnesota school record in the 200 backstroke Saturday, touching the wall in an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 1:43.26, good for another second-place finish.

“This was Adam Mitchell’s best meet of his life,” Dale said. “And not just by a little bit, he was phenomenal in the water. Not only in breaking three school records, but he lead off the 800 free relay with the best 200 free time of the meet.”

Indiana diving proves too much for Minnesota

Heading into the Big Ten Championships, it was uncertain whether Indiana would remain dominant in the diving events after losing a strong senior class last year.

Well, now the Big Ten can be certain the Hoosiers didn’t lose a step.

The Hoosiers outscored everyone outside the pool, finishing with 184 points from the diving events.

Minnesota tallied 38 points.

“You know, overall as a team, Indiana scored a lot of diving points and Purdue got a lot as well,” first-year diving coach Jason Baumann said. “But we were tied for third in most diving points, so it’s just about coming back and making some more improvements.

Junior diver Shaun Kennedy finished with a career-best Big Ten finish, taking fourth place on platform with a score of 321.7.

The next step on the boards for Minnesota is getting to Indiana’s level.

And that just takes time and recruiting, Baumann said.

“We’ll get everyone to continue improving and come back next season,” Baumann said. “We’ll bring in some new guys and give it time, because that’s what it’s going to take.”