Gophers finish out of NCAA top 10

Matt Perkins

Every year, when the season comes to its inevitable conclusion at the NCAA Championships, Minnesota’s men’s swimming and diving team is content.

Not to say that the Gophers aren’t hoping to have success beyond the Big Ten Championships, but they taper and prepare for the conference championship above all else.

And after a second-place finish at Big Tens, Minnesota coach Dennis Dale said he would have been content with anywhere from 100 to 150 points at the NCAA Championships in Atlanta over the weekend.

So he was “incredibly happy” when the team scored 136 points en route to an 11th-place finish, continuing its streak of 15-consecutive top-15 finishes at NCAAs.

“I knew that 150 points would have meant everything going perfect for us,” Dale said. “So to come so close to that mark at 136 is a great accomplishment for our guys.”

The Gophers are a team built for the Big Ten, and they work hard to peak during the conference championship.

“I don’t know if we’re willing to get fourth at Big Tens so we can finish ninth instead of 11th at NCAAs,” Dale said. “That’s just not our mentality.”

Senior Adam Mitchell received five All-America certificates at the meet, giving him 11 All-American honors for his career.

After a great showing for the Gophers at Big Tens, Mitchell was disappointed with his output over the weekend. He reached the consolation final and earned points in all three of his individual events on the weekend.

“I didn’t feel good in the water,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t feel clean. It’s hard for me to come off tapering for Big Tens and then second taper. I didn’t feel good but I gave it everything I had.”

Mitchell did say that the team’s 11th-place finish was more satisfying than last year’s 11th-place finish.

But the fact is the Gophers always are going to be competing for the top 10 at NCAAs because they focus so much on the Big Ten Championships.

“If all of us taper for Big Tens we get a better idea of how the team as a whole is doing,” senior Travis Beckerle said. “But we can’t judge our whole team based on our finish at NCAAs.”

Michigan and Northwestern were the only Big Ten teams to finish ahead of the Gophers at NCAAs, while Big Ten champ Indiana finished 12th behind Minnesota.

So now the Gophers look ahead to the 2007 Big Ten Championships.

“It’s a possibility that we could taper down and become an NCAA-focused team,” Mitchell said. “But it’s a decision our team makes that we want to be competitive in the Big Ten. And that’s the right decision in my mind.”