Men’s swimmers stumble in Day 1 at Big Tens

David La

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The defending Big Ten champion Gophers men’s swimming team was a little too eager to begin its title defense in Day One of the meet Thursday night.
Minnesota was disqualified in the 200-yard freestyle relay, the first event of the night, because of an early take-off from the platform.
Before the judges officially disqualified the relay team, the Gophers swam to what would have been a Big Ten record in the event.
Not only did this disqualification nullify a 40-point lead, it also had an effect on the team’s swagger through the rest of the meet.
“We were right on the edge,” said Minnesota coach Dennis Dale. “It wasn’t an obvious jump, but it wasn’t a call I could vehemently disagree with either.”
As if that wasn’t a big enough disappointment, the Gophers also failed to qualify a swimmer in the eight-man consolation bracket for all three individual events on Thursday.
The top 16 swimmers in each event score for their team. The top eight go to the finals, and the bottom eight go to the consolation heat. In a meet like the Big Tens, it is essential to have a few swimmers score team points in the consolation rounds to add to the big guns’ scores in the finals.
While Minnesota had six swimmers qualify for the finals on Thursday, the team failed to capitalize on its depth.
Before the meet, Dale said the Gophers strength would be their depth, but has been left dumbfounded by the lack of team participation in the individual events.
“We can’t win this meet without putting people in the consolation (bracket),” Dale said. “Our big horses can’t carry us to a victory.”
“There is no question we’ve dug a hole for ourselves.”
Day One of the meet for Minnesota was not a complete loss, however. Freshman Ricardo Dornelas was victorious in the 50-yard freestyle event, and his time of 19.79 seconds automatically qualifies him for the NCAA championships.
In addition, the Gophers’ 400-yard medley relay team took first, edging out second-place Penn State by .17 seconds.
Looking to ahead to the remainder of the championship, senior Martin Zielinski, who swam the butterfly leg of the champion 400 medley relay team, offered his view on the Gophers’ chances of making up a disappointing first day.
“What we need to do is concentrate on each morning session and get everybody who can to qualify (for the top 16 scoring spots),” he said.
Michigan leads after the first day with 187.5 points. Penn State is second with 161 and Minnesota is third with 143.