Lifetime bests are enough to get past dominant Michigan

by Nick Gerhardt

A championship filled with career best times wasn’t enough for the defending Big Ten champions Gophers swimming and diving team to catch up with Michigan who captured its 33rd Big Ten title.

up next

gopher-It invite
what: Men’s swimming
when: 1 p.m., Sunday
where: Aquatic Center

The No. 4 Wolverines hosted the meet and dominated the competition from the beginning, winning 13 of the 18 events for their first title since 2003.

While Michigan ended a title drought, Minnesota ended an 18-year streak of finishing either first or second at a Big Ten conference championship by finishing third behind the Wolverines and Indiana.

“I was thinking we were going to come out of it in second,” sophomore Ray Betuzzi said. “We swam to the best of our abilities.”

The best of their abilities amounted to having all 23 swimmers score at the meet and having nearly every swimmer achieving a lifetime best over the course of the three-day event.

Sophomore Michael Daup highlighted the performances by shaving 15 seconds off of his previous best in the 1,650 yard freestyle.

Junior Mike Holmes finished second in the 1,650 freestyle for the second straight year and earned the highest finish for Minnesota.

Senior Tyler Schmidt tied his best finish by placing third in the 200 freestyle. Schmidt added a career best in the 100 freestyle for the Gophers.

“The atmosphere was conducive to fast swimming,” senior Russ Payne said. “We got stronger as the meet went on and that speaks to the character of this team.”

Payne set career bests in the 200 backstroke and 400 individual and Minnesota advanced 16 swimmers to the final day of competition, the most of any team.

Unfortunately for Minnesota there was nothing they could do to keep pace with the Wolverines.

Michigan set the tone for the meet right away and sent a statement to the rest of the Big Ten that it would not settle for anything less than first place.

Michigan won four of the six events and jumped out to a 94 point lead over the Hoosiers after the first day. The Wolverines increased that lead to 226.5 over the weekend for 1081.5 total points compared to 855 for second place Indiana. The Gophers finished with 682.5 points.

Minnesota coach Dennis Dale admitted that Michigan swam one of the best meets he’s seen during his career.

“It was clear Michigan was not going to be stopped,” Dale said. “There was nothing we could have done to beat Michigan.”

Although the third place finish ended a tremendous string of top finishes, the Gophers still look forward to the NCAA championships a month away.

Minnesota expects around 10-12 swimmers to qualify for the meet and will hold a last chance meet for those on the cusp of making a qualifying time.