In Baumann’s trip back to Bloomington, Gophers look for second-straight Big Ten title

Matt Perkins

Last year Minnesota’s men’s swimming and diving team had senior All-Americans Justin Mortimer and Terry Silkaitis leading the way at the Big Ten Championships.

This year, Minnesota is looking at juniors Adam Mitchell and Igor Cerensek to fill their shoes.

But coach Dennis Dale said this year’s Big Ten Championships, which begin today at noon in Bloomington, Ind., are going to be decided by the “other guys.”

“Adam Mitchell is not going to score any more points than he did last year, because he did so well a year ago,” Dale said. “Instead we are going to need points from some other guys such as Tyler Schmidt, Mike Woodson and Colin Lee-To.”

Woodson is the only one of the three to have previous championship experience, as he scored in the 100-yard backstroke last year with a 12th-place finish.

Dale said it’s a lot to ask out of sophomores Woodson and Schmidt and freshman Lee-To, but he added that the Gophers need to ask more from of everyone this year with Michigan and Indiana making improvements.

The ninth-ranked Gophers are frontrunners along with Michigan and Indiana again this season.

“Those are the three powerhouse teams,” Dale said. “And right now most people look at those three teams and think it’s a toss-up for who wins.”

In fact, although Dale expects the meet to be won in the pool, it may be won on the diving board, where Indiana is again the favorite.

“We think that they are maybe a little bit weaker in that area this year, and us a bit stronger,” junior Dan Berve said. “But that doesn’t matter as long as we get what we need to get done in the pool.”

Jason Baumann will make his first Big Ten Championship appearance as Minnesota’s diving coach this weekend.

And with it he hopes to return to his winning ways.

Baumann won four combined team U.S. National Championships as the assistant coach at Indiana, also adding four women’s U.S. National Championships.

Once a Hoosier himself, Baumann knows Indiana always is going to be a favorite in the diving competitions at Big Ten Championships.

“You know, they’re one of those teams that’s always going to be good,” Baumann said. “But right now I’m focused on getting Minnesota to that level.”

In fact, the Gophers have been stellar on the boards this season.

Minnesota has four divers with zone-qualifying scores. John Schmidt, Shaun Kennedy, Joe Skeate and Cole Young will compete for the Gophers at the NCAA Zone C Diving Championships coming up in March.

But first things first, and that’s trying to bring home a Big Ten title.

“It’s a matter of taking it one event at a time and one dive at a time,” Baumann said. “If we do that and take care of some things, we’re going to have a good contest.”