Gophers men’s swimming team finishes 14th at NCAAs

by Jim Schortemeyer

Sometimes, the best just isn’t good enough.
Minnesota’s men’s swim team learned that lesson this weekend at the NCAA championships in Auburn, Ala. With a few exceptions, every time they turned in was in the top 10 in Minnesota history. But unfortunately for them, that still wasn’t good enough to crack into the national top 10.
Stanford completed its sweep of NCAA team swimming titles (the women won last weekend) by annihilating the competition. The runner-up, Auburn, was a full 200 points behind the Cardinal.
Minnesota finished 14th overall, propelled by points garnered in the relay events. The Gophers were in the consolation finals for every relay, and because double points are awarded in relay races, they fared well. Seventy of the Gophers’ 105 points came from the relay events.
The weekend’s mixed blessings were typified by the performance of junior Martin Zielinski. Zielinski, the Big Ten Champion in the 100-yard butterfly, beat his own school record by three-tenths of a second. But Zielinski’s time earned only a sixth-place finish, and the eventual winner set a new NCAA record with a time nearly two seconds faster than Zielinski.
The meet was a disappointing one for the Gophers, who had expected to place in the top 10. Minnesota beat Michigan at last month’s Big Ten Championships, but Michigan placed ahead of the Gophers, finishing 12th at the NCAAs.
At Big Tens, everything went right for Minnesota, leading coaches to believe they would do better at NCAAs.
“We’re not swimming as well as we would like,” Minnesota head coach Dennis Dale said. “It’s tough to come back after a meet like that.”
The Gophers had eight returning All-Americans this year, but failed to improve on last year’s 12th-place finish. Minnesota had also qualified 14 swimmers, which tied the school record.
On an individual level, freshman Alex Massura had another impressive meet for Minnesota. Massura set the school record in both the 100- and 200-yard backstroke at last month’s Big Ten championships, and improved on all his marks this weekend. He nearly cut four-tenths of a second off his 100 time, and his 200 time was a second faster than any time he swam before this year. Massura’s efforts earned 18 points for the Gophers, but he placed no higher than eighth.
“Clearly,” Dale said, “the competition is extremely good.”
The NCAA meet effectively ends the swimming season for Minnesota, with only the U.S. Senior Nationals left on the swimming schedule for a few of Minnesota’s elite swimmers. That event, as well as the senior diving competition, will be held at the Aquatic Center beginning this week.

Top 16 Minnesota Finishers
Bill Bishop — 16th, 500-yard freestyle.
Alex Massura — 8th, 100-yard backstroke; 10th, 200-yard backstroke.
Martin Zielinski — 6th, 100-yard butterfly; 10th, 200-yard medley relay; 10th, 400-yard medley relay; 12th, 200-yard freestyle relay; 9th, 400-yard freestyle relay; 10th, 800-yard freestyle relay.
Yoav Meiri — 14th, 200-yard butterfly.