Men’s swimming team looks for top 10 finish at NCAAs

Jim Schortemeyer

In a sport governed by split-times and hundredths of seconds, accuracy would seem to reign supreme. But current goings-on in the world of men’s swimming and diving have left some scratching their heads.
Voters in the college swimming and diving coaches poll have Minnesota ranked 11th in the nation, its highest spot this season.
Michigan, which Minnesota beat handily at the Big Ten Championships, holds the seventh spot going into the NCAA Championships.
The Gophers, who have been competing all season thinking they are under-ranked, will have a chance to prove it at the NCAA Championships, held March 26-28 in Auburn, Ala.
Minnesota coaches and swimmers understand they won’t be competing for the team national championship this season, but they also think they can finish higher than their ranking would indicate.
“We can be as high as sixth, and at least 10th,” Gophers head coach Dennis Dale said.
Dale said he is happy with having the fourth largest team in attendance, but he doesn’t entertain thoughts of winning a national championship.
Nonetheless, there will be a strong Minnesota presence at the meet. The Gophers have a swimmer in every race, including relays, with the exception of the 200-yard breaststroke.
Chances for individual championships are slim, with only two Gopher swimmers seeded in the top eight.
Minnesota divers will not be participating at this year’s championships, which is a somewhat surprising result. Freshman Dan Croaston won all but one diving competition during the dual-meet season, but did not qualify for NCAAs.
As has been typical throughout the season, Alex Massura will be a busy swimmer in Auburn. Massura will be swimming in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke, as well as the 100-yard freestyle, and possibly three of Minnesota’s five relay teams.
Massura finished a close second in both backstroke events at the Big Ten Championships.
He isn’t the only Gopher who will be active. Eight of Minnesota’s school-record 14 qualifiers will be swimming in three individual events.
Perhaps Minnesota’s best chance at a championship will be in the 200-yard medley relay. Anchored by three seniors who placed fifth at last year’s championships, team members nearly set a school record at the Big Ten Championships. And they said they were playing it safe, to make sure they didn’t get disqualified.
As for the team’s overall chances, senior freestyle sprint specialist Jeremy Rients echoed the thoughts of his coach.
“After winning Big Tens, people realized we have a great chance to be in the top 10, maybe eight,” Rients said. “If everyone has a really great meet like at Big Tens, we have a good chance of finishing higher.”