Gophers post strong showings in final home meet

The Minnesota Challenge closed out the regular season for both teams.

Eric Sande competes in the mens 100 yard breaststroke during the Minnesota Challenge at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017 in Minneapolis.

Courtney Deutz

Eric Sande competes in the mens 100 yard breaststroke during the Minnesota Challenge at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017 in Minneapolis.

Alyssa Hodenfield

The Minnesota swimming and diving teams hosted the Minnesota Challenge over the weekend to close out the regular season.

The Gophers used the meet as a way to prepare for the Big Ten Championship meets, which occur later this month.

“We didn’t participate heavily on the swimming side,” said head coach Kelly Kremer. “The swims I did see I felt really good about. I feel good about where we’re at and where we’re headed the next month and a half.”

The meet kicked off with a win by the men’s 200-yard medley relay team, which was made up of Noah Busch, Eric Sande, Daryl Turner and James Tidd with a time of 1:31.14.

The Gophers claimed the top four spots in the 200-yard freestyle, led by freshman Tuomas Pokkinen in 1:39.28, followed by sophomore Bowe Becker (1:40.70), senior Noah Busch (1:41.29) and freshman Parker Lemke (1:42.62).

Senior Eric Sande won the 100-yard breaststroke in 56.01 and sophomore Erik Hunter snagged a win in the 100-yard backstroke with a season-best time of 51.85.

“[The team dynamic] is positive. I think we’re all ready to go shock the world and surprise a lot of people at [the] Big Tens,” Sande said. “I think we’re all ready to just swim fast.”

The women were strong in the 200-yard freestyle. Junior Danielle Nack claimed the first place spot in the event (1:50.02) followed by freshman Tevyn Waddell in second (1:50.40).

The time was a season-best for Waddell.

Sophomore Rachel Munson won the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:02.97 which earned her a season-best time. She was followed by sophomore Nicki Ciavarella (1:04.16).

“Across the board I felt so good about it,” Kremer said. “[For example], somebody who hasn’t done a ton of racing this year like Rachel Munson, she had an awesome swim today and really looks ready to go, so that was encouraging.”

Diving was also a strong suit for Minnesota. The men took the top four spots in the 3-meter and 3-meter platform events led by senior Matt Barnard, who won first in both.

Alan LeBlang, Lucas Cooperman and Jeremy Moser took second, third and fourth in both events, respectively.

The women’s team also dominated the diving events. Freshman Sarah Bacon took first in the 1-meter event (299.60). Senior Yu Zhou won the platform (313.05) and 3-meter events (393.95).

“[The divers] were very consistent, and it was a really good fine tune-up for them,” Kremer said. “This is a really good way to enter the championship season.”

The Gophers will compete at the Big Ten Championship meet in late February next.

“I don’t think we could be in a better spot from a preparation standpoint,” Kremer said. “I think we’re in the spot we want to be in and now it’s a matter of going out and enjoying the fruits of all the work we put in throughout the season.”