Gophers finish 15th at 2018 NCAA championships

Conner McHugh finished fourth in the 200-yard breaststroke, his final race as a Minnesota swimmer.

Senior Conner McHugh prepares for the start of the NCAA championship 200 breaststroke finals at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on Saturday, March 24. McHugh placed 4th overall in the event.

Jack Rodgers

Senior Conner McHugh prepares for the start of the NCAA championship 200 breaststroke finals at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on Saturday, March 24. McHugh placed 4th overall in the event.

Erik Nelson

Minnesota men’s swimming and diving hosted the NCAA championships, for the first time since 2011, at Jean K Freeman Aquatic Center.

The result after the meet ended Saturday was the highest finish the Gophers have had since they last hosted the event.

The Gophers came in 15th place with a score of 67. Texas won the title for the fourth consecutive year, receiving a score of 449. Minnesota scored 91 points when it finished 15th in the NCAA’s in 2011.

“I hope that they keep this vision in their heads if they want to get to this meet and perform at this meet next year,” head coach Kelly Kremer said.

On Saturday, senior Conner McHugh finished fourth in the 200-yard breaststroke final, completing the race in 1:52.00. It was his final race as a swimmer for Minnesota.

“I wanted to take the time to look into the stands, see my parents, see all my friends supporting me and cap off a career like I wanted to,” McHugh said. “I went into this meet with the mindset of doing the best that I could with it and just enjoying it at the same time.”

Junior Bowen Becker finished 14th in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 42.13. Becker received an All-American Honorable Mention for the event.

Becker said he could have swam better in the 100-yard freestyle.

“It’s a big learning experience. I’m grateful that I got to go through it,” Becker said. “This is a great starting point.”

On Friday, McHugh finished sixth in the 100-yard breaststroke, recording a time of 51.48 and establishing a program and personal record in the process. 

Minnesota finished 14th in the 200-yard medley relay. The team of Becker, McHugh, Tuomas Pokkinen and Matthew Thomas finished the race in 1:24.89.

Becker won bronze in the 50-yard freestyle on Thursday, completing it in 18.90 and earning an All-American award.

“I know I can keep up with them. It builds confidence for the next year,” Becker said.

After it hoisted the first-place trophy for the fourth consecutive year, Texas celebrated by jumping into the diving pool. 

McHugh received All-American honors in both the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke. He became the first Minnesota swimmer to claim the honor in both breaststroke events since Jeff Hackler in 2003.

Kremer said that Minnesota needs to be better in relay races if the team wants to succeed at a national level.

“That’s where you put the majority of points on the board,” Kremer said. “Our student-athletes did a good job. We’re not at this level yet. This experience will help, another year of growth will help. We’re a young team. We’ll see a difference next year at this meet in those relays.”

McHugh said he doesn’t have any regrets after Saturday’s race.

“I know that deep inside, I did everything I could … [in] my collegiate career,” McHugh said. “To be able to leave the pool that way is a great way to finish my career.”