Men’s swimmers finish seventh in NCAA meet

Women’s gymnastics; Men’s gymnastics; Softball; Men’s track

Sam Campanaro

Minnesota men’s swimming and diving team finished seventh in the NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas. The Gophers finished the three-day event with 228 points, just behind sixth-place Florida at 232.

Auburn kept the lead through the meet, taking home the national championship with 609.5 points. It is now the fourth consecutive season that the Gophers have finished in the top 10 and 12 straight years in the top 15.

The Gophers’ performance included 12 different swimmers earning All-America honors a total of 31 times. Terry Silkaitis led the Gophers with six All-America honors. Minnesota improved its national finish from last year when the Gophers finished eighth overall with 216 points. Minnesota had the most points of any Big Ten school.

“We’re very happy with our performance at the national championships,” head coach Dennis Dale said. “Our goal was to finish better then we did last year and we moved up a spot this year. It’s now our fourth straight year to finish in the top 10 and we’re every excited about that.”

The Gophers had their best event in the 200-yard breaststroke when Mike Brown and Jeff Hackler finished in the top eight. Brown had the third-fastest time when he clocked a season- and career-best time of 1:55.63. Brown shaved down his preliminary time of 1:56.01, but Texas’ Brendan Hansen broke his own NCAA, American and US Open Record in 1:52.62. It is the first All-America honor for Brown, a freshman from Perth, Ontario.

Junior Justin Mortimer gained All-America honorable mention in the 1,650-yard freestyle event, placing 14th overall. Mortimer swam to a 15:07.70, while Travis Beckerle added a 24th-place finish for the Gophers.

Todd Smolinski added a 12th-place finish in the 200-yard backstroke when he finished in 1:44.65. It was his fastest time of the season and narrowly broke his career best, which is 1:44.38. Diego Urreta finished 28th overall with a time of 1:47.12.

Terry Silkaitis finished the 100-yard freestyle in 43.55, good enough for 10th overall. Silkaitis finished the preliminaries in 15th overall clocking a 43.72. Allen Ong finished 28th in the event in 44.14, a season best.

Matt Taylor finished 25th overall in the 200-yard butterfly in 1:47.39.

The foursome of Silkaitis, Ong, Taylor and Smolinski added a seventh-place finish in the 400 free relay against Florida. The Gophers had a season-best time of 2:54.94, but California broke the NCAA and US Open record in 2:48.99.

“Our breastrokers and relays performing so well are what kept us in the top eight,” Dale said.

In the entire NCAA championships this year, seven NCAA records were broken, four American records were bested and five US Open records were reset.

Hackler, Ong, Smolinski and Taylor finished their careers with this meet. Hackler ended his four-year run as a 15-time All-American, Smolinski a 16-time All-American and Taylor and Ong nine-time All-Americans.

Women’s gymnastics

Minnesota’s women’s gymnastics team finished fourth at the Big Ten Championships at Illinois with a team score of 195.425.

Michigan won the team title with a 197.450, while Iowa took second (196.850) and Penn State placed third (196.650). Ohio State (194.975), Illinois (193.575) and Michigan State (193.425) placed fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively. The Gophers had the third-highest total on bars and floor, scoring a 49.200 on each.

The Gophers were led by sophomore Carolyn Yernberg, who posted the highest finish of any Gopher in two events. She tallied a 9.90 to place fourth on floor exercise and had a 9.875 on vault to earn fifth place. Freshman Laura Johnson led Minnesota on parallel bars with a fourth-place finish after scoring a 9.90.

Minnesota will be in action on Saturday, April 12, at the NCAA regional championships.

Men’s gymnastics

Minnesota’s men’s gymnastics team finished fifth overall at the Big Ten Men’s Gymnastics Championships with a score of 214.300. Penn State won the team title (220.550), while Ohio State placed second (218.600), Iowa took third (215.600), Michigan finished fourth (215.325) and Illinois was sixth (211.850).

“It was a huge disappointment,” coach Fred Roethlisberger said. “Our goal was third, but we knew going in that we could end up last.”

Senior Clay Strother and sophomore Guillermo Alvarez placed first and second respectively at the Big Ten Men’s Gymnastics Event Finals at Ohio State.

Strother, who is the defending two-time NCAA national champion on floor exercise, won the event with a score of 9.675, bettering his mark of 9.625, which was the top score in preliminaries. Alvarez, who had the second-highest score behind Strother in preliminaries, accomplished the same feat in the finals, taking second place on floor with a 9.575.

“We knew going in that the competition on floor was between these two,” Roethlisberger said.

Strother also qualified for the event finals in vault and parallel bars. He finished fifth on vault with a 9.250 and took eighth place on parallel bars with an 8.500. Alvarez also competed on parallel bars, finishing seventh with an 8.60.

Senior Tim Koehler was the third Gopher gymnast to qualify for event finals, and he earned a sixth-place finish on vault with a 9.225.

The Gophers will next be in action on Saturday, April 12, when they travel to Philadelphia, Pa., for the NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships.

Softball

With winter sports such as basketball and hockey seizing the

college spotlight with their respective postseason tournaments over the weekend, Minnesota’s softball team quietly opened its Big Ten campaign in Iowa City on Saturday.

As it turns out, quiet was indeed the theme when it came to the Gophers’ bats.

Its offense never really coming alive, Minnesota (18-10-1, 0-2 Big Ten) was swept 1-0 and 7-1 by the Hawkeyes (23-6, 2-0) on Saturday. The original schedule called for the two teams to play single games on Friday and Saturday, but inclement weather forced a doubleheader. It remains a mystery if the Gophers’ bats would have awakened had two separate games been played.

“We didn’t get it taken care of on any front,” co-head coach Lisa Bernstein said. “Iowa’s a good ball club and they got us twice.”

The first game of the twin bill was a pitcher’s dual as Minnesota’s Piper Marten and Iowa’s Lisa Birocci did battle in the circle. In the end, however, it was Birocci’s bat that did Minnesota in.

The Hawkeye’s hurler belted a double to left-center field and advanced to third on a throwing error in the fifth. Amanda Hentges’ ground ball was then bobbled by Shelly Nichols which allowed pinch runner Stephanie Park to score the game’s lone run.

Marten absorbed the loss despite allowing only four hits and striking out five. She did not walk a batter and felt her 2003 conference debut was acceptable.

“We both had really good games,” Marten said of herself and Birocci. “I felt I was on my game and focused the whole time. I just threw one of those mistakes that unfortunately led to the only run.”

The game was Minnesota’s fifth shutout loss of the season.

In the nightcap, the game was over before the Gophers could even get a chance to bat through the lineup.

Iowa’s Kristin Johnson ripped a home run to dead center to lead off the game against Minnesota’s Angie Recknor. The Hawkeyes added another run in each of the next two innings and forced Recknor to be replaced by Lyn Peyer. The sophomore didn’t fare any better as she gave up three runs on four hits in the fourth.

Anne Thul nabbed an RBI single in the sixth for the Gophers, but it wasn’t enough to spark any kind of momentum.

Recknor took the loss allowing three runs on seven hits. Hawkeyes’ pitcher Ali Arnold was credited with the win, striking out eight en route to her ninth win of the season.

Minnesota is in Des Moines, Iowa, today for a doubleheader with Drake.

– Brian Stensaas, Staff Reporter

Men’s track

Highlighted by a host of solid performances from its distance runners, Minnesota’s men’s track and field team enjoyed a successful weekend at the Raleigh Relays in Raleigh, NC.

Minnesota ran in the 4×1,500-meter relay for the first time in school history, and its team of Ryan Malmin, Will McComb, Ryan Ford and Ben Hanson finished third.

Additionally, Ford, Malmin, Hanson and Zach Edmonson finished third in the 4×800-meter relay.

“When you get guys running in a relay, they seem to respond well,” distance coach Steve Plasencia said. “The meet allowed us chance to get guys in a few different races for the weekend. Everybody ran two or three races.”

In the hammer throw, sophomore Curt Schoenfelder finished fourth, automatically qualifying for the NCAA regional meet with a throw of 181-8. Senior Michael Ehlers also finished seventh in the event.

“Overall, I’d have to say our training objectives were met in this meet,” coach Phil Lundin said. “A lot of the finishes were right on target with what we wanted to see.”

– Ben Goessling, Staff Reporter