Gophers miss top-10 finish at NCAAs

Swim Meet, Friday 6 pm

Ashley Goetz

Swim Meet, Friday 6 pm

It wasnâÄôt the top-10 finish the menâÄôs swimming team had wanted, but it wasnâÄôt a bad showing, either. The Gophers, on the strength of some key relays, came in 11th place in the NCAA championship over the weekend, finishing with 108 points. The teamâÄôs mantra all week was to finish in the top-10, which was feasible because they had 11 swimmers qualify for the meet in College Station, Texas, but head coach Dennis Dale said he was happy with the weekend, anyway. It was the 18th-straight top-15 finish for the Gophers program and 10th-straight top-11 finish. They were 23 points âÄî a sizable amount âÄî short of 10th place Georgia, and wouldâÄôve finished worse without surprise finishes from relay teams in the 800-yard freestyle and 400-yard freestyle. âÄúWe wouldâÄôve liked to get that top-10, because thatâÄôs our goal every year, but I donâÄôt know that it was in the cards in this one,âÄù Dale said. âÄúWe performed well and canâÄôt be too disappointed with that.âÄù The 800-yard freestyle relay was seeded 13th and finished in sixth, winning 26 points, and the 400-yard freestyle relay was seeded 12th and moved up to eighth. âÄúWhen youâÄôre competing against the best teams in the nation, relays are so important for us,âÄù junior Alex Wold, who won two All-American awards, said. âÄúTheyâÄôre double the points, and theyâÄôre a chance for our team to win those points. ItâÄôs almost a must for us to get those.âÄù Relays are what have kept the Gophers competitive, because as a northern school, they have trouble attracting the nationâÄôs elite swimmers. As Dale said earlier in the week, âÄúEven if we have four guys that might not place in a certain race, if we stick them together, weâÄôve found we can score some points.âÄù Relays yielded 98 of the 108 points on the weekend. The 800-yard relay team of Wold, Ray Betuzzi, Curt Carlso n and Steve Miller shattered the school record in the event by more than three seconds âÄî a significant amount âÄî as the team broke several school records. Dale said itâÄôs fairly rare to break school records at a national championship, because swimmers train to peak at the qualifying meets. The general rule of thumb, he said, is that only about 20 percent of swimmers actually improve on their qualifying time. But several Gophers did, which Dale credited to the depth of the team and the strength of the relays. âÄúI think our guys just realized that if they wanted to be All-Americans, theyâÄôd have to get it in the relays,âÄù he said. âÄúAll year we focus on relays. ItâÄôs what we preach over and over again. ThereâÄôs no question that our guys directed all their energies and focus towards that.âÄù Wold had a surprising run in the 400 individual medley, taking ninth place and earning 9 team points and breaking a team record in the process, which Dale said was perhaps the biggest surprise of the meet. âÄúI was really, really pleased,âÄù Dale said. âÄúFrom start to finish, people were solid. Alex Wold shocked us. I had other coaches coming up to me all the time and complimenting our guys and our relays. And we were in great shape. While other guys from other teams were going two seconds slower, we had guys going two seconds faster.âÄù