Swimmer and diver power U team

by Brian Stensaas

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Minnesota’s Alex Massura and Dan Croaston are no strangers to winning. It should come as no surprise that the two provided a bevy of points for the Gophers this weekend at the Big Ten championships.
The duo helped power Minnesota to a second-place finish behind Michigan.
But the awards they received Saturday on the deck of the Canham Natatorium are firsts for them both.
Massura, behind his leadership in Minnesota’s relay events and his winning ways in the backstroke earned the Big Ten swimmer of the year honor.
Croaston, meanwhile, took over first place in the 3-meter diving competition in the finals to recover from a second-place finish in the 1-meter event. He was named the Big Ten diver of the year.
It is the first such Big Ten honor for the both of them. And coach Dennis Dale knows it makes a name for the Minnesota program.
“I tell you, it makes you mighty proud to be their coach,” he said Saturday. “It indicates that our program is there, tops in the conference.”
Both were recognized at last year’s championships. Croaston was named co-diver of the championships while Massura was co-swimmer of the year last season. But this year, the awards belonged purely to them.
“These awards show that Minnesota honestly did a good job here this weekend,” diving coach KZ Li said. “Dan did very good and got this award because he deserved it.”
Massura, who was not rested or shaved for Big Tens, knew he had a job to do this weekend.
“Even though I am not fully prepared for this meet, I wanted to come here and try to help Minnesota win the championship,” he said. “When I go out there, I expect to do my best always.”
Both had successful dual meets and invitational tournaments leading up to the Big Ten championships, but saved a little something for the Michigan crowd.
Massura won both the 100- and 200-yard backstroke events. He also played a pivotal role on Minnesota’s relay events and often barked encouragement to fellow teammates inches from the side of the pool.
“I love getting into it,” Massura said. “When I am cheering and shouting, all the pain goes away. I don’t care about that. I just care about the team.”
Croaston was second on the 1-meter and nailed eye-popping dives off of the 3-meter, easily winning the title behind near-perfect marks.
“It feels pretty good,” Croaston said. “I’m kind of speechless. The dives (which scored 9.5) felt smooth the whole way. I got a straight jump and you can’t get much better scores.”
Both Croaston and Massura will now look toward the NCAA championships. They have had success at the national level before, but therein lies an even larger goal: Sydney’s Summer Olympics, 2000.
Massura already has a fourth-place Olympic finish to his credit, swimming for Brazil in the 400 freestyle relay at Atlanta in 1996.
Croaston, meanwhile is looking to make the Olympic trials for the first time.
The two Gophers have a solid shot at making it to Australia. Not convinced? Look no farther than the Minnesota trophy case.

Brian Stensaas covers swimming and diving and welcomes comments at [email protected]