Silkaitis, Dale earn annual Big Ten men’s swimming honors

Minnesota’s Terry Silkaitis was named the Big Ten swimmer of the year at the Big Ten championships last weekend. Along with Silkaitis, Minnesota also took home a share of the swimming coach of the year award, which was given to Dennis Dale. It is the first honor for Silkaitis and sixth honor for Dale, who has won the award three consecutive years.

Silkaitis had a solid performance at the Big Ten championships, winning three individual events along with being a member of two first-place relay teams. Silkaitis opened the championships by winning the 50-yard freestyle event. He finished in 19.95, the fifth-fastest time in school history.

Silkaitis was also a member of the first-place 200 freestyle relay and the 400 medley relay teams. In the 400 medley relay, the foursome of Silkaitis, Jeff Hackler, Todd Smolinski and Matt Taylor broke the Big Ten meet record in 3:09.76.

Silkaitis went on to win the 200 freestyle the second night of the tournament. In the 200, Silkaitis set a pool record and automatically qualified for the NCAA championships with his time of 1:34.42, which was also his career best and the fastest time in the nation.

Silkaitis completed the league championships with his third individual win in three nights, this time in the 100 free. He broke the Big Ten championship record in the 100, swimming a time of 42.87. He is the first person in school history to win the 50, 100 and 200 free in the same season at the Big Ten championships.

Dale shared the Big Ten swimming coach of the year with Michigan’s Jon Urbanchek. In his 18 years at the helm of the Gophers men’s swimming program, Dale has led the Gophers to a top-15 NCAA finish 11 straight years. He has coached more than 90 student-athletes to 213 First Team All-American status. Under Dale’s tutelage, Minnesota has placed either first or second in the championships every year since 1989.

The Gophers also had nine members named to the First Team All-Big Ten, the most by any other school. In order to receive first-team accolades, swimmers must finish first in their individual events or in relays. Brian Gettelfinger, Hackler, Bjorn Lundin, Justin Mortimer, Allen Ong, Neil Osten, Silkaitis, Smolinski and Taylor were all first-team selections. Mike Brown, Sean McCaffrey and Ryan Plummer garnered Second Team All-Big Ten honors, finishing second in their events, respectively.

Women’s gymnastics

Minnesota’s women’s gymnastics team finished second among four teams with a score of 195.775 at the North Carolina Quadrangular in Chapel Hill, N.C. North Carolina edged Minnesota for first place with a score of 196.000, while Towson (194.225) and William & Mary (192.225) took third and fourth respectively.

The 23rd-ranked Gophers (10-8) posted their highest team score on the bars with a 48.750 and tied North Carolina for the top score on beam with a 49.200. Minnesota’s score on beam was its highest this season, surpassing its previous best of 49.075, which was set at the Best of Minnesota meet.

The Gophers claimed three of the four individual titles as junior Mary Skokut totaled a 9.875 to win uneven bars and had a career-high score of 9.90 on the balance beam to win that event. Skokut also finished third overall in the all-around competition with a 39.075.

Sophomore Carolyn Yernberg continued her dominance on floor exercise as she won the event with a 9.90. It was the sixth time this season Yernberg has registered at least a 9.90 on the floor.

Yernberg tied Gopher first year Laura Johnson for the team’s highest finish on vault as the duo each scored a 9.825 to finish fourth.

The Gophers return home to the Sports Pavilion for their next meet Saturday, March 8, when they face Big Ten rival Penn State at 7 p.m.

Softball

The 24th-ranked Minnesota softball team lost its final game of the 2003 Worth Invitational on Sunday as sixth-ranked California posted a 7-0 no-hitter in Fullerton, Calif.

The Gophers are now 10-4-1 overall, 1-3-1 against ranked teams and 2-3 at the Worth Invite. Cal improved to 14-6 with the win.

Minnesota heads to the National Invitational Softball Tournament in San Jose, Calif., on March 7-9.