Minnesota takes 3rd at conference meet

Host Ohio State won the event, scoring 860.5 points to the Gophers’ 497.

Derek Wetmore

The No. 9 Gophers menâÄôs swimming and diving team finished third in the Big Ten championships this weekend at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion in Columbus, Ohio. Host Ohio State won the meet, with Michigan taking second. The third-place finish extended MinnesotaâÄôs stretch of dominance at these championships, as theyâÄôve finished in third or better every year since 1989, but junior Curt Carlson said the team didnâÄôt view taking third in a quality field of competition as a victory. âÄúI was a little disappointed to not win but to get third was OK,âÄù Carlson said. âÄúHopefully [we] can do a little bit better at the national championships; thatâÄôs what IâÄôm looking forward to.âÄù The Gophers have earned a Big Ten title in five of the last nine seasons. Junior Michael Richards led the way for the Gophers with two individual titles. Richards won the 100 freestyle in 43.29 seconds. He also won the 50 free to help secure a third-place finish for Minnesota. âÄúI made sure that when I stood behind the blocks for the 50, I knew exactly how I was going to swim it and then all I had to do was get in the water and swim it,âÄù Richards said. âÄúIf youâÄôre standing behind the block and you know youâÄôve worked your butt off, you can have confidence.âÄù Carlson also had an impressive weekend, finishing second only to Richards in the 100 freestyle (43.49). Carlson carried an unbeaten streak in the 100 free heading into the race, going a perfect 6-0 in competition this season. Both Carlson and Richards stressed the importance of keeping up with training as a team heading forward to the national championships. Preparation is a major part of how a team succeeds at these meets and the swimmers realize that they canâÄôt afford to relax after the Big Ten tournament. âÄúWeâÄôll hopefully take down some of those Michigan and Ohio State relay teams at the NCAA [championships],âÄù Carlson said. âÄúWeâÄôve always been a pretty good team at NCAAâÄôs and I donâÄôt think thatâÄôs going to change this year.âÄù Sophomore Zach Bolin placed third in the 100 free (43.79), behind teammates Carlson and Richards to round out the triumvirate of Minnesotans on the podium. For the divers, this was their first championship under coach Wenbo Chen . Junior Drew Brown finished sixth in the competitive field and made the finals in all three events, becoming the first Gophers diver to do that since 2001. Freshman Kristoffer Jorgensen also reached two finals. âÄúI was particularly ecstatic with our diversâÄô results. [They] did a super job,âÄù head swimming coach Dennis Dale said in a statement after the meet. Dale was unavailable for further comment. The Gophers finished their regular season with an unbeaten record of 6-0 heading into the weekend. Only four Big Ten teams were ranked entering the meet. Ohio State was tied with Minnesota at the No. 9 spot and Michigan entered at No. 6. Not surprisingly, those three teams secured the top three spots. No. 18 Purdue claimed fourth place. âÄúWe are pretty happy with the meet,âÄù Dale said in a statement. âÄúSome guys who trained hard and worked hard throughout the year performed well.âÄù The Gophers will compete in the Gopher-It invitational next weekend at the University Aquatic Center as part of a final preparation for the NCAA championships. March 12 marks the start of the NCAA Zone Diving championships, with the NCAA swimming championships being held March 25-27 in Columbus, Ohio. The competition began Wednesday and concluded Saturday evening. It was the first time the championships have ever gone four days.