Gophers clean up at Minnesota Challenge

The men’s and women’s teams won every event at the Aquatic Center.

by Nick Gerhardt

The Minnesota men’s and women’s swimming teams decimated the field this weekend at the Minnesota Challenge, winning every event.

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The men’s team claimed victory in a total of 18 events for a resounding victory with the Big Ten championships coming in less than two weeks.

“That’s how you want to go into a Big Ten championship,” senior Tyler Schmidt said.

While the meet served as a tune up for members of the Big Ten championship roster, it also showcased the talents of those who wish to make the team next season, as a few Gophers earned their first career wins.

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Sophomore Peter Mullee achieved his first win in the 100-yard backstroke event with a time of 49.91, a career best.

Senior Mike Woodson won two events on the day for No. 8 Minnesota as he led the way in the 200 butterfly and 200 freestyle. Freshman Chris Peterson clocked a season best time in the 200 freestyle, finishing second to Woodson.

“This meet was a chance to demonstrate what they’ve accomplished throughout the year,” coach Dennis Dale said. “They’ve made real progress.”

Junior Anthony Portela turned in a season best performance in the 100 butterfly event, a race in which the Gophers captured the top four spots. Portela touched first with a time of 49.55, just ahead of senior Jason Timmer who finished in 49.62, Erich Welton finsished third with a time of 49.64 and Schmidt followed at 50.54.

Minnesota will now head into its taper, an important time for the team, Schmidt said.

“So much of the taper is mental,” Schmidt said. “It’s like Dennis always says, ‘Happy swimmers swim faster.’ “

Women sweep meet

The women’s team captured all 14 events over the weekend as they looked to tie up loose ends before the conference championships.

“This was a very good start to our championship season,” co-head coach Kelly Kremer said.

The No. 9 Gophers still hold the highest ranking in the nation of all Big Ten schools and continue to look well positioned to make a run at a conference championship. They haven’t won a title since the 2000 season.

Minnesota took home the first five spots of the 200 medley relay which bodes well for the team as points in the relays are worth twice as much.

“We’re going to work on starts and relay exchanges over the next week,” Kremer said. “We’re coming out fresh, ready to go.”

Freshman Steph Hilstrom won her first career event in the meet for the Gophers when she clocked a time of 4:31.10 to edge out teammate junior Yuen Kobayashi in the 400 individual medley.

Hilstrom wasn’t finished, as she collected another victory in the 200 backstroke later in the day.

The 200 freestyle event showcased the depth of Minnesota as they claimed the top 10 spots in the event.

The women will head to Ohio State for the conference championship meet on Feb. 21-23. The last time the Gophers swam in that pool, they finished first.

The men meanwhile travel to Michigan on Feb. 28-March 1 to defend their conference title. They edged the Wolverines last season by four points for a championship.