COLUMBUS, Ohio, December 7. THE nationally-ranked Ohio State men's swimming and diving team captured its first Ohio State Swimming and Diving Invite title Sunday at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion with a score of 1382.5 points. The No. 11 Buckeyes topped the three-time reigning champion Minnesota by over 500 points.
"I am extremely please with this group of guys," Bill Wadley, head men's swimming coach, said. "It was a dynamite effort by the whole team, from the freshmen to the seniors. It was a fun weekend and fun to see all of their hard work being paid off.
"We're very thrilled to win big over such a tough field of competitors."
Rounding out the top five behind Ohio State was Minnesota with 873.5 points, Penn State (649), Notre Dame (398) and Cleveland State (194).
A major highlight of the day's events was the 200 breaststroke that saw the Buckeyes go 1-2-3-4-5, led by 2007 team Most Outstanding Swimmer Sam Pelkey. Despite injuries that have plagued his fall training, the junior took first in a meet-record time of 1:58.60.
"Sam Pelkey has an uncanny ability to take his game to the next level and is a champion both in the pool and in spirit," Wadley said. "Sam has been injured all fall and really shined tonight. It is hard to imagine anyone with a unique ability to pull everything all together like he has."
Also standing out was the performance by junior Niksa Roki in the 200 butterfly. The 2008 Croatian Olympian took third with an NCAA "B" time of 1:46.07, breaking a 24-year school record in the process.
"To have a swimmer break records like Niksa has this weekend at this time of the year is fantastic," Wadley said. "He had an outstanding swim today."
Reigning national champion Sean Moore had a dominating performance on the platform diving event for the Buckeyes. The sophomore took the title in a McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion record of 434.60 points.
Juniors Stefan Sigrist and Mark Neiman opened up the final session of the Invite with a 1-2 finish in the 1,650-yard freestyle. Sigrist won in a meet-record time and NCAA "B" cut time of 15:15.09, just edging out Neiman's "B" time of 15:15.69.
Ohio State's depth shone through in the evening's next event as the Buckeyes had six out of eight swimmers in the 200 backstroke championship final. Penn State's Patrick Schirk took the top spot, with Ohio State sophomore Phil Seleskie taking second in 1:46.55.
Sophomore Itai Chammah captured third in the event (1:46.82) and was followed by Justin Farra in fourth (1:47.13) and Tyler King in fifth (1:47.96). Freshman Austin Mudd and sophomore Michael Hulme rounded out the field, finishing seventh (1:49.17) and eighth (1:49.19), respectively.
In the 100 freestyle, Buckeye co-captain Joel Elber swam a career-best time of 44.13 to finish second just behind Minnesota's Curt Carlson.
Closing out the weekend was the 400 freestyle relay. The team of junior Andrew Olson, Elber and freshmen Markus Sievers and Lincoln Fahrbach finished second in a "B" time of 2:58.00.
For the women, Ohio State remains in fourth place out of 15 teams after the second day of competition at the 2008 Ohio State Swimming and Diving Invite. The Buckeyes, under the direction of coach Bill Dorenkott, have 284 points. Minnesota, which won the 2008 Big Ten championship in the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion eight months ago, continues to lead the field with 863 points. Penn State is second with 572 points and Notre Dame is third with 354 points.
Samantha Cheverton was the star of the day for the Buckeyes, setting new school records in the 100-yard butterfly and the 100 backstroke.
Dorenkott, who guided the Penn State women to three Big Ten championships in his last seven years as its coach, was hoping for a better overall performance from his team on Saturday, but he explained that he did not set his team up to challenge for this title. Instead, he wanted to use this meet as a gauge to see how well the team would perform under difficult circumstances.
"In fairness to the swimmers, I wanted to see how tough they would compete with less than ideal preparation," Dorenkott said. "For us to be successful at the Big Ten championships, and ultimately at the NCAA championships, we need to be good at less-than-our-best. Excellence has inertia even after you stop fueling it."
One can look no further than Dorenkott's former team – Penn State – to see the truth in his words. The Nittany Lions are competing against the juggernaut Golden Gopher team at this meet (Minnesota swimmers have won 12 of 13 races so far), and they are solidly in second place after a day in which 14 Nittany Lions were finalists and another five were in consolation races and thus scored points for their team.
Even with a new coach – Penn State tapped one of Dorenkott's former assistants and swimmers – there is a 13-year Dorenkott-built mindset in the program that just doesn't go away as soon as the coach is gone. And it's that kind of mindset that Dorenkott is working on at Ohio State.
"Our season will be defined in the next four weeks," Dorenkott said. "Once we figure out our identity and our vision, we can go about the task of deciding where we want to go."
Cheverton, a Lachine, Quebec native, broke Gulsah Gunenc's school record in the 100 butterfly with a time of 54.78 and she broke Amanda Treleaven's record in the 100 backstroke in a time of 55.31. She placed ninth in both races.
"It motivates me when I see someone off to my side," Cheverton, who came from behind to win the 100 butterfly, said. "It was my first time ever swimming under 55 seconds and I am just really happy with the race."
Junior Colleen Schweitzer was the team's highest placing finisher Saturday. The Highlands Ranch, Colo., native made the finals of the 100-yard breaststroke and finished seventh in a time of 1:04.62. Freshman Catherine Eitel and junior Megan Alexander also scored in the event with 14th- and 15th-place finishes, respectively.
Three Buckeyes scored points in the 400 individual medley: Sophomore Katelyn Brix was ninth in 4:24.22, junior Jill Lockhart was 11th in 4:25.37 and freshman Lisa Narum was 13th in 4:28.97.
Anita Beck scored in the 200 freestyle with an 11th-place effort in a time of 1:50.80 while Eitel was 14th in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:06.09 and Lockhart was 16th in the 100 backstroke in 59.08.
Kristen Asman was 10th on the one-meter springboard with 259.6 points.
Ohio State also picked up points in both relays. Its 200 medley relay team of Cheverton, Eitel, Narum and Beck was ninth in 1:45.55. And its 800 freestyle relay team of Cheverton, Beck, Mitchell and Lockhart was fourth in 7:27.79.
Special thanks to Ohio State for contributing this report.