Gophers Lead Big Ten Championships After First Day

MINNEAPOLIS, MN, February 25. THE University of Minnesota men's swimming and diving team leads the Big Ten Championships at University Aquatic Center after the first day of competition Thursday as the Big Ten Meet record fell in every swimming event, three to Northwestern swims, per host sources.

The Gophers lead with 218 points. Indiana is second with 205, after a passel of diving points bolstered their swim scoring. Northwestern is third with 154. The Gophers used their depth to gain the lead, posting a finalist and at least three scorers in each event.

Minnesota is the defending Big Ten champion and has won three of the last four conference championships. "I am happy with where we are," head coach Dennis Dale said. "We obviously can't let up. We have to keep qualifying guys for the finals. This meet will not be won by winning events, it will be won by scoring lots of people."

The Gophers' top scoring event was the 50 freestyle where they posted four finalists. Ales Volcansek and Igor Cerensek tied for third place in a time of 19.89. The time was a career-best for Cerensek and was just .04 seconds off Volcansek's prelim time. Mario Delac touched the wall sixth in 19.95 and Terry Silkaitis was seventh in 20.10. Northwestern's Matt Grevers won the event in 19.39, after a Big Ten record :19.35 in the preliminaries. Neil Osten gained valuable team points for the Gophers by winning the consolation final in a time of 20.24.

Justin Mortimer broke his own school record in the 500 freestyle and posted another NCAA automatic time but it wasn't enough to beat Michigan's Peter Vanderkaay. Mortimer touched the wall in 4:15.98 but was still well behind Vanderkaay (4:12.34), who set a new Big Ten Championships record and recorded the fastest time in the nation this year. The Gophers had plenty of depth in the event as well. Travis Beckerle swam a career-best 4: 20.96 to finish fifth and Sean McCaffrey finished eighth in 4:26.62. Zach Wood also placed 14th in 4:27.59 to complete the Minnesota scoring.

Adam Mitchell swam a career-best 1:45.44, an NCAA automatic qualifying mark, to finish third in the 200 individual medley. The time was also the second-best in school history. Purdue's Louis Paul defended his title in a time of 1:45.00. He had a meet record 1:44.65 in the morning swim. David Plummer came through in the consolation final, winning in 1:48.77 to pick up nine team points. Russ Payne finished 16th in a time of 1:50.44.

In the evening's first event, the Gophers broke their previous Big Ten and school record but it still wasn't enough to outlast Northwestern, who won in a time of 1:17.74, getting an :18.73 split out of 50 champ Grevers. The Gophers team of Delac, Osten, Volcansek and Cerensek posted a time of 1:18.24, besting their school record time by .04 seconds.

Perhaps the most impressive individual performance came from John Schmidt in one- meter diving. The junior took fourth place with a personal-best score of 330.60. Ohio State's Mitch Richeson won the event with a score of 367.60. Indiana gained on the Gophers in the event, posting five finalists.

The Gophers posted a season-best time of 3:14.15 in the 400 medley relay but Northwestern was victorious again with a Big Ten record time of 3;08.50. The Gophers took third behind Indiana. Minnesota's team consisted of Plummer, Sean Kelly, Lucas Petersen and Silkaitis.

The :52+ breaststroke legs from Indiana’s Kevin Swander and Northwestern’s Mike Alexandrov also whet the fans appetites for the 100 breaststroke individual event.

The second day begins tomorrow afternoon at noon with the preliminaries of the 400 individual medley, 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle, 100 breaststroke, 100 backstroke and three-meter diving.

MINNESOTA DAY 1 HIGHLIGHTS – Justin Mortimer broke his own school record in the 500 freestyle with a time of 4:15.98.

– Minnesota broke its school record in the 200 freestyle relay (1:18.24).

– Posted three NCAA Automatic qualifying times (Mitchell-200 IM, Mortimer-500 Free and 200 free relay). – Posted 11 additional NCAA B Cut qualifiers.

– Of the Gophers' 20 total individual swims yesterday, 18 of them produced personal-best times. In addition, John Schmidt recorded a personal-best score of 330.60 on the 1-meter board.

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