Mortimer claims four titles, high point award

Justin Mortimer, who took a year off school at Minnesota to train for the 2004 Olympic Trials, narrowly missed the cut for the Olympics, but is making the best of his situation.

Mortimer, who was one place and two seconds away from qualifying for the Olympics, won four national titles at the ConocoPhillips National Championships last weekend.

Mortimer won the 1,500-meter freestyle race Sunday and secured 89 points for the men’s high points Kiphuth Award.

He finished the race with a time of 15:23.96 on Sunday and beat the second place finisher by more than 11 seconds.

Mortimer finished with a time of 15:13.66 in the Olympic Trials on July 14, finishing third overall in the event. The top two finishers from each event advance to the Olympics in Athens.

Larsen Jensen, who trained with Mortimer this past year in Mission Viejo, Calif., set a new U.S. record at the Olympic Trials with a time of 14.56.71. Erik Vendt will also make the trip to Athens after placing second at the trials with a time of 15:11.96.

Mortimer won his first national title last weekend in the 800 freestyle. He then went on to win the 200 freestyle and the 400 individual medley before the 1,500 freestyle.

Mortimer was poised to win five events, but finished ninth in the 400 free.

“I learned my lesson that there’s some fast swimmers here and that I had to go faster than I did (to win five events),” he said. “It’s a tough lesson to learn, but I had to learn it at some point.”

Minnesota swimmers Adam Mitchell and Terry Silkaitis both placed at the event.

Mitchell took third in the 200 individual medley and Silkaitis was eighth in the 50 freestyle with a time of 23.34.

Taylor signs with N.Y.

Minnesota’s men’s hockey team defenseman Jake Taylor decided to forgo his remaining three years of eligibility and signed a three-year contract with the NHL’s New York Rangers last Wednesday.

Taylor is the second Minnesota defenseman to leave the team early and play in the NHL after Keith Ballard signed with the Phoenix Coyotes in early June.

“We’re disappointed that Jake has decided to move on to professional hockey,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “Jake was a tremendous competitor and a first-class young man. Although I don’t agree with his decision, I wish him nothing but the best.”

The Rangers drafted Taylor in the sixth round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.

Volleyball ranked 5th

Minnesota’s volleyball team is ranked in the nation’s top-five teams following the programs first trip to the NCAA Final Four last season.

The Gophers are fifth in the USA Today/CSTV preseason poll behind Southern California, Nebraska, UCLA and Florida.

The Gophers were also one of five teams to receive a first-place vote in the poll.

The Gophers were 26-11 last season with a 15-5 Big Ten record. The Gophers return six starters and 11 letter winners from last season.

The Gophers had their first preseason practice yesterday and will begin their 2004 season with the NACWAA Tournament in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Aug. 27.

Nash wins golf event

Former Minnesota golfer Simon Nash won his first event on the NGA/Hooters Tour as he finished with a six-under-par final round and a 20-under-par, 268 total.

Nash is the second former Gopher to win on the tour in the last month after Wilhelm Schauman won the Health Facilities Rehab Classic on July 18. Former Gopher Matt Anderson also competes on the professional tour.