Gophers swim and dive teams make a big impact in Big Ten’s win over ACC

The Big Ten swept the ACC in a swim and dive challenge over the weekend.

Junior Bowen Becker dives off the blocks at the start of the men's 400 yard freestyle relay at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatics Center on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018.

Jack Rodgers

Junior Bowen Becker dives off the blocks at the start of the men’s 400 yard freestyle relay at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatics Center on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018.

Danielle Pederson

The men and women of the Big Ten’s swim and dive teams swept the Atlantic Coast Conference at Purdue University.

The inaugural Big Ten/ACC Challenge finished in favor of the Big Ten Sunday, and Minnesota’s athletes played an important role in the conference’s success.

“Not only was it an awesome opportunity to display the kind of swimming and diving in the Big Ten and across the collegiate landscape, but also our own Gopher swimmers and divers performed fantastic all weekend.” said Kelly Kremer, head coach of the men’s and women’s swim and dive teams.

The Big Ten men and women maintained their leads from the first day and won the challenge with the respective scores of 179-174 and 251-102.

Bowen Becker posted the meet’s top time in the 50-free, 19.62, to give himself a first-place finish. Divers Nick Yang and Alan LeBlang finished sixth and 12th respectively after six dives off the tower. Max McHugh touched the wall second in the 100-breast with a time of 52.19, finishing only behind the 2018 NCAA champion.

The Big Ten women carried their big lead from day one into day two of the competition.

Lindsey Kozelsky and Rachel Munson competed in the 100-breast, finishing second and fifth. Diver Kristen Hayden finished fifth with a score of 302.40. Junior Tevyn Waddell swam the 100-meter backstroke and posted a top-five national time of 52.48.

Junior Nick Saulnier was pleased with the outcome of the challenge and how he and his teammates performed over the weekend.

“We definitely showed up very well alongside those other teams,” Saulnier said, “We posted a lot of top times in the country. It was really cool to see that.”

At the conclusion of day one in West Lafayette, Indiana, the Big Ten women led the ACC women by a score of 123-44.

Adding to this large point gap were consistent top-three finishes by swimmers from Minnesota, including a second-place, personal-record time of 1:53.47 in the 200-meter backstroke by Waddell. Waddell’s performance was supplemented with a third-place finish in the 300-meter medley-relay consisting of Waddell, Kozelsky, and Chantal Nack.

The Big Ten men’s team completed day one with a marginal lead of 85-82 on the ACC.

McHugh, swam the nation’s top time in the 200 meter breaststroke, hitting the wall in 1:54.20. Becker, a senior, swam to a fourth place finish in the 100-freestyle Saturday evening with a time of 43.25.

By day two of the challenge, the Big Ten teams had a newly-formed chemistry and were ready to defend their leads in the competition.

“At first, as one might think, it was kind of awkward just because we are usually competing against each other but by the second day I think everyone felt comfortable with each other and I definitely saw some bonding,” McHugh said.

The Gophers will look to maintain the momentum coming off of this meet when they return to the pool in Iowa City this coming weekend.