Men’s swimmers win Big Ten

Kent Erdahl

The final of the 100-yard freestyle was a big moment for Minnesota’s men’s swimming and diving team at the Big Ten Championships over the weekend, yet no Gopher swimmer finished in first place.

Instead, Minnesota claimed second, third, fourth and sixth places, scoring a total of 62 points in that single event.

Performances such as this propelled the team onto its third Big Ten Championship in four years in West Lafayette, Ind.

Although the Gophers finished with 712.5 team points and swam away from second-place Michigan (605 points) and third-place Northwestern (478) on Saturday, Minnesota did not have one first-place finisher in an individual event.

Gophers head coach Dennis Dale said the lack of individual champions only added to the thrill of the team title.

“It was nothing short of spectacular,” Dale said. “We didn’t win a lot of events, but we made up for it in numbers.”

Minnesota’s only first-place finishes were a testament to those “numbers,” because they came in relays.

In the championships’ first event Thursday, the Gophers shattered a Big Ten record by 0.41 seconds in the 200-yard freestyle relay with a time of 1:18.28.

“They went out and did the job,” Dale said. “They smoked them, in fact.”

The team effort continued through Friday’s competition for the Gophers, but Michigan remained only 50.5 points behind going into the final day by relying on only a few star swimmers who captured several individual titles.

In the final day, Minnesota stepped up the collective performance to a level never before seen in a Big Ten Championship. The number of Gophers who scored grew to 25 of the 26 total swimmers the team brought to the championships, which is the greatest number of contributing team members in Big Ten Championship history.

“When the other teams were running out of energy, we stepped up and had our best day,” Dale said. “We offset Michigan’s stars with our depth.”

Winning a Big Ten title made up for a lack of individual titles for the Gophers, especially for the four swimmers who placed near the top of the 100-yard freestyle. They combined their efforts in the 400-yard freestyle relay and took first, breaking the Big Ten record in the final event with a time of 2:51.65 and putting an exclamation point on Minnesota’s title.

Seven Gophers honored

Minnesota’s Igor Cerensek, Mario Delac, Neil Osten, Terry Silkaitis and Ales Volcansek were named first-team All-Big Ten.

Sean McCaffrey and Adam Mitchell were named to the second team for the Gophers.