Gophers fly past ranked competition at swim meet

by Brian Stensaas

There was little doubt the 10th-ranked Minnesota men’s swimming and diving team would win this weekend. The only question was: Could the team continue on its recent tear of Big Ten foes?
Look no further than the score sheets, which show the obvious answer — the Gophers had little trouble coming out on top.
Minnesota welcomed No. 23 Purdue and No. 24 Wisconsin into the Aquatic Center on Friday and Saturday. In the end, both teams were overshadowed by the speed and tenacity of the Gophers.
“The whole coaching staff was extremely pleased with the results,” coach Dennis Dale said. “We haven’t looked at it statistically yet, but off the top of our heads, we think this is the fastest Minnesota meet in history.”
Attesting to Dale’s assumption are a handful of head-turning performances. As a team, Minnesota won 16 of 19 events, defeating Wisconsin and Purdue by a combined score of 445-318.
“We just had a whole series of outstanding performances,” Dale said. “We may have had an athlete or two who had a bad race, but for the most part, the whole team is much faster than I expected them to be.”
But is the team going too fast, too soon?
In the NFL’s AFC divisional playoffs in early January, Jacksonville blew out Miami 62-7. The following week, the Jaguars were eliminated from the playoffs by Tennessee. Dale hopes the Gophers don’t follow the same path with the Big Ten championships less than a month away.
“One of the opposing coaches asked, ‘Are you swimming so fast that you’re scared?'” Dale said. “And I told him that we’re working hard and we haven’t rested. Generally, you’d be a bit concerned.”
With a hefty core of freshmen on Minnesota’s roster, another concern for the team at the Big Ten meet in four weeks will be the lack of experience. Sixteen first-year swimmers are listed on Minnesota’s roster, 10 of which compete on a regular basis.
Splish splash
Wisconsin’s Ted Krueger, who defeated Minnesota’s Alex Massura earlier in the year in the 200-yard backstroke, did not make the trip to Minneapolis this weekend. Krueger has a fractured bone in his leg, but it has not kept him from practicing. According to Dale, if the meet would have been held in Madison, Krueger would have competed. This means that Massura will have to wait until the Big Ten meet to seek revenge on Krueger. Massura is the defending Big Ten champion in the 100 backstroke.
Bad ankle, big wins
Junior diver Dan Croaston suffered a twisted ankle while practicing flips on the diving mats this weekend. Diving coach KZ Lee said that as late as Saturday morning, he considered scratching Croaston from the diving roster.
“Our main concern was making sure that he would be able to compete at the Big Tens,” Lee said. “He knows — everybody knows — he needs to be able to compete there. But he said that he was ready to go, so we let him dive.”
After winning both the 1- and 3-meter diving competitions despite the taped ankle, Croaston is looking forward to the big meet.
“I’m ready,” he said. “This weekend, (the judges) scored a little harder, but that just makes you work harder. Even though you know the dive was better than you got scored, you try to do better.”

Brian Stensaas covers swimming and diving and welcomes comments at [email protected].