Men swim to sweep, postseason up next

David La

The two-day, three-session Minnesota Challenge concluded Saturday night at the Aquatic Center, and to the surprise of few, the No. 9 Gophers men finished at the top of every event.
The only exception was the 800 freestyle relay, an event in which Minnesota didn’t field a team.
Swimming against Moorhead State, Gustavus Adolphus and the Twin Cities Club Team, there was little question of which squad would dominate.
But coach Dennis Dale saw the individual performances of his swimmers as the most important part of this meet. After all, there are still vacancies on the Gophers’ travel squad to be filled by Monday. The Big Ten championships will be held in Bloomington, Ind., on Feb. 25-27.
“The quality of the depth makes the difference at the Big Ten championships,” Dale said.
Another difference for Minnesota could be the health of senior Jono McLeod. McLeod partially tore his deltoid muscle last Monday, and was kept out of competition over the weekend as a precautionary measure.
“I had no range of motion or strength on Tuesday,” he said. “But I had them both back by the weekend, so I don’t think it will be an issue for Big Tens.”
The Gophers will bring a No. 9 ranking into postseason, and expectations for success will be high for the defending Big Ten champions.
“The last couple of years we haven’t finished well at the NCAA level,” McLeod said. “This year we’d like to finish in the top 10 in the country.”
First up, however, are the Big Ten championships. Dale looked ahead to match-ups that could cause dilemmas for the Gophers.
“Michigan is loaded in distance freestylers and Penn State has some really good sprinters,” Dale said. “We’ll need to perform well in the sprint events to beat Penn State, and to offset Michigan’s strength in the distance events.”
The Gophers will also count on contributions from the nine seniors who were honored in a special ceremony on Saturday. The ceremony capped a meet that Dale said he was not completely enamored with, as he emphasized the need for more consistent performances.
“In general, it was a good meet for us,” Dale said. “But we can’t afford to have weak sessions or blasÇ performances (in the Big Tens).”