Michigan stands in Gophers’ way

The Wolverines have won four of the past five Big Ten championships.

Nate Gotlieb

The Gophers men’s swimming and diving team enjoyed a dynasty over the Big Ten championships as recently as 2007.

But the program that won five conference championships from 2001-07 has finished no higher than third since then.

Michigan has won four of the past five Big Ten championships and gone 34-1 in conference dual meets since the 2007-08 season. The Wolverines are seeking their third consecutive Big Ten title this week.

“They’re balanced,” Gophers head coach Kelly Kremer said of No. 3 Michigan. “They don’t have a weak event.”

Kremer said Michigan’s current squad is one of the best a Big Ten school has ever put together.

Michigan defeated the Gophers 170-124 in October. The Wolverines went 6-0 in dual meets this season and have conference-best times in 14 swimming events.

Junior captain Derek Toomey said he is cautiously optimistic that the Gophers can compete with Michigan this weekend.

To do that, the Gophers will have to overcome the loss of one of their top swimmers, junior Kyler Van Swol, who is academically ineligible.

Van Swol is a four-time All-American and has the ninth-fastest 200-yard butterfly time in the conference this season. He was also a mainstay on both of the Gophers’ medley relays.

Last year, the Gophers finished fourth at the Big Ten championships behind Michigan, Ohio State and Indiana. They also had their worst finish at the NCAA championships — 24th — since 1990.

“That was something that hurt us a little bit last year,” senior captain Jared Anderson said of the team’s low NCAA finish.

Anderson said that he is trying to keep the team loose.

“We’re a bunch of guys that swim best when we’re just having fun and goofing around with each other,” he said.

The Gophers return 10 top-10 finishers from last year’s Big Ten championship team, including Toomey, Anderson, sophomore CJ Smith and senior diver Mikey Ross.

Smith has top-10 conference times in two distance freestyle events this year. Ross took second in 3-meter diving at last year’s championships.

The Big Ten championships begin Wednesday with the 200 medley relay and 800 freestyle relay and run through Saturday night.