Gophers make a big splash at Minnesota Challenge

Both the men and women won 18 of the possible 20 events.

Samuel Gordon

The Gophers swimming and diving teams were looking to end their regular season in impressive fashion, and thatâÄôs exactly what they did in their final tune-up before the Big Ten championships, dominating the 17-team Minnesota Challenge.

The men started off the two-day meet by claiming the top three spots in the 500-yard freestyle, with sophomore Sean Nesheim winning in 4:27.83.

Junior Andy Knaak took first in the 200-yard individual medley in 1:52.21, with senior Ivan Gutesa finishing in second.

Senior All-Americans Mike Richards and Curt Carlson put on a show in the 50-yard freestyle, placing first and second respectively. Richards clocked his second-fastest time of the season with a 19.89 finish to edge CarlsonâÄôs 20.32, one of his top times this season as well.

The Gophers won both of FridayâÄôs relays, winning the 200-yard freestyle relay in 1:23.09, and the 400-yard medley relay in 3:22.19.

Nesheim continued his winning ways in SaturdayâÄôs portion of the meet, recording victories in the 200- and 1650-yard freestyles.

Senior Drew Brown won both the 1-meter and 3-meter dives, nearly recording identical scores scores with a 387.25 in the 1-meter and a 387.05 in the 3-meter.

Sophomore Jared Anderson won the 100-yard breaststroke in a season-best 55.70 seconds, edging sophomore Josh HallâÄôs 56.02. The tables were turned in the 200-yard breaststroke when Hall won in 2:04.66, bettering AndersonâÄôs second-place time of 2:05.27.

Richards picked up his second freestyle crown of the weekend by winning the 100-yard free in 44.88 seconds.

Knaak took the 400-yard individual medley in a season-best 4:01.18.

Freshman Kyler Van Swol led three Gophers in the 100-yard butterfly with a 49.05 finish. He was followed by sophomore Larry Formosa and freshman Sandy Whitaker.

Other Minnesota winners included Whitaker in the 100-yard backstroke and freshman Drew Johnson in the 200-yard butterfly, giving the menâÄôs team victories in 18 of the 20 events.

The womenâÄôs team was equally impressive, winning 18 events as well.

Minnesota won all five of Friday nightâÄôs events. Sophomore Abbey Staats took the 50-yard freestyle in 23.66 seconds after she teamed with junior Melissa Nelson, sophomore Brianna Chu, and freshman Monica Radecke to win the 200-yard freestyle relay.

Nelson also swam the first leg of the victorious 400-yard medley relay. The team of Nelson, senior Avery Michienzi, freshman Jenna Howenstein and Radecke won in 3:54.20.

Junior Marissa Davies won the 500-yard freestyle in 4:55.08. Lissa Tommerdahl claimed runner-up honors with a time of 4:57.90.

Elizabeth Weitz won the 200-yard individual medley in 2:04.39, with freshman Danielle James finishing second in 2:05.85.

Weitz continued her success Saturday by winning the 400-yard individual medley in a season-best 4:23.50, and the 200-yard breaststroke in 2:03.85.

James went on to win the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:03.56, and the 200-yard breaststroke in 2:20.67. She also was a part of the first-place 200-medley relay along with Nelson, Staats, and sophomore Natalie Herrild.

That entire relay team also won individual events Saturday. Nelson would go on to win the 100-yard backstroke in 57.89, Herrild won the 100-yard butterfly in 56.90 seconds, and Staats took first in the 100-yard freestyle in 51.37 seconds. That trio, along with Radecke, won the 400-yard freestyle relay in 3:27.71.

Other winners included Lauren Weis in the 200-yard frestyle, and Kelsey Ridder in the 200-yard butterfly.

Despite the fact that junior Kelci Bryant didnâÄôt compete in the diving events, the Gophers still won both titles. Freshman Sarah McCrady won the 1-meter dive with a score of 309.95 and freshman Maggie Keefer won the 3-meter dive with a score of 292.80.

Bryant is coming off of a victory at the USA Diving Winter National Championships. The junior defended her 1-meter championship Wednesday, her eighth career national title.

The 2008 Olympian scored 283.90 points to win the 2011 title.

Bryant found herself in fourth place after three rounds, but jumped up to third with one round to go. With less than 4 points separating her from first place, she secured her win by scoring a 62.40 on her last dive, her highest-scoring dive in the finals.

âÄúMy first dive went pretty well but then I missed two in a row, so I knew the pressure was on,âÄù Bryant said. âÄúI could hear in the background that all the girls going before me were doing great dives in the last round, so I knew I had to go for it and do a great last dive myself and it worked.âÄù

The womenâÄôs team will have 10 days to prepare for the Big Ten championships, which will be hosted by Indiana.

The menâÄôs team has 17 days to get ready before they host the menâÄôs championships at the University Aquatic Center.