Men’s swimming and diving happy with seventh place

Jim Schortemeyer

In most sports, a seventh-place finish isn’t very impressive. But swimming and diving isn’t like other sports — favored teams almost always end up winning.
In that context, the Minnesota men’s swimming and diving team was happy, even surprised with its seventh-place performance at the NCAA swimming and diving championships last week.
“We were very happy with it,” Gophers coach Dennis Dale said. “I think our goal of finishing in the top 10 was as tough as we could have set.”
Minnesota was ranked 14th coming into the meet, but sent 13 swimmers and one diver to compete in the meet at the Gophers’ Aquatic Center.
But it was the relay teams, buoyed by Alex Massura, that anchored the Minnesota effort.
Massura, who finished third in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke, swam on all five Minnesota relays as well, in both preliminaries and finals. The three-day meet was no vacation for the junior.
“He had 12 races in a three-day meet and he swam 12 very good races. He swam very well,” Dale said.
Massura wasn’t the only NCAA veteran scoring points. Minnesota junior Dan Croaston finished fifth on the 1-meter board, and ninth in the 3-meter and platform events.
While his results are up from last year, when he didn’t crack the top 16, Croaston wasn’t thrilled with his weekend.
“Ninth place isn’t a good place to be in,” Croaston said. “You’re so close to making the finals.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating not being up there, but I did way better than last year.”
The diving year isn’t over for Croaston. He’ll be attending the U.S. Senior pre-qualifying meet this weekend in an attempt to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials this summer.
Croaston hopes to place in the top 12 at the U.S. Senior meet later this month, and make the Trials.
“Last spring, where I look back and I wasn’t nearly as good as I am now, I was 16th, nipping at their heels on the 3-meter,” Croaston said.
Looking even further down the road, Dale says the NCAA meet bodes well for Minnesota’s future. The Gophers lose just one of their 14 competitors to graduation, and freshman Jeff Hackler had a nice swim in the 200 breaststroke, finishing third.
“He would have broken the school record if you could convert the time to yards, so that was certainly very nice,” Dale said.
With a full lineup returning next year, Dale says the team is already starting to think about next year.
“Yeah, we have some people talking about a top-five finish, but this was one meet — one good meet. Some of the teams, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, will be counted with in the future. We had a very good meet where we swam about as well as we could have.
“Of the teams in the top 10, I’d say we swam closest to our potential.”

Jim Schortemeyer is the sports editor and welcomes comments at [email protected]