Big Ten Men's Swimming & Diving Championships Preview
Feb. 13, 2007
February 16-18 Ohio State University Columbus, Ohio Bill and Mae McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion
Some of the nation's top aquatic talent will converge upon the Ohio State University campus and the Bill and Mae McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion this weekend at the Big Ten Men's Swimming and Diving Championships. The event will feature six teams (No. 6 Northwestern, No. 10 Minnesota, No. 11 Indiana, No. 12 Michigan, No. 13 Ohio State and No. 18 Purdue) ranked in the latest CSCAA Top 25 and one more (Wisconsin) that is receiving votes outside the poll.
The Hoosiers, last years champs, are looking for their first back-to-back conference crowns since 1984-85 and hope to do it with four-time Diver of the Week, Taylor Roberts, last year's winner off the three-meter board. All five of Indiana's divers have surpassed NCAA Zone qualifying standards while Ben Hesen owns IU's lone swimming `A' standard.
Hoping to improve upon it's 10th-place finish last year, Iowa is looking to a squad that includes 10 freshmen and just three seniors. Included in the Hawkeyes' crop of young talent is freshman Frank Van Dijkhuizen, the Big Ten Diver of the Week on Oct. 17. Leading the upperclassmen is junior Dragos Agache, who scored in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke events at last year's championships.
Last year's third-place finisher, Michigan, has already qualified two swimmers to the NCAAs in Matt Patton (1,650 freestyle) and Andre Schultz (100 backstroke). Junior Alex Vanderkaay will be defending his 400 individual medley title this weekend while the Wolverines are also the reigning champions of the 800 freestyle relay.
After finishing last at the 2006 championships, Michigan State returns 13 athletes including Krysztof Olszewski and Matt Akerley, named Swimmer and Diver of the Week, respectively, on Dec. 12. The Spartans will also rely on a new group of young talent with 10 freshmen on their roster.
With a second-place finish at last year's championships, Minnesota is looking to win its fifth conference title in the last seven years having won the event in 2001, 02, 04 and 05. The Gophers return three All-Big Ten first-team selections in Igor Cerensek, Mario Delac and Tyler Schmidt, as well as Michael Woodson, a second-team honoree in 2006.
Last year's Co-Swimmer of the Year Matt Grevers leads Northwestern into Columbus as one of the most decorated swimmers in conference history. The senior has posted five individual 'A' times and one as part of a relay and was named Swimmer of the Week a record-tying four times. As a team, NU swimmers earned a Big Ten-record seven Swimmer of the Week awards.
Kellen Harkness scored for the Buckeyes off both springboard events at last year's championships and has been named Diver of the Week twice this season. Additionally, four OSU swimmers have posted top-15 national times in Joe Doyle (12th, 100 fly), George Markovic (14th, 1,650 free), Mark Neiman (15th, 1,650 free) and Daniel Malnik (11th, 200 breast).
Penn State finished eighth at last year's championships but looks to improve on the strength of a strong diving squad. Senior Mike Alderman received three Diver of the Week awards this season and was the Lions' lone All-Big Ten selection in 2006 after taking first off the one-meter.
Purdue heads to Columbus with a core of solid divers, led by last year's Co-Diver of the Year Steve LoBue. A member of last year's All-Big Ten second team, LoBue was named Diver of the Week on Nov. 7 while teammate Zach Schultz received a weekly award on Jan. 23.
A young Wisconsin team will look to sophomore Scott Rice for leadership, the Big Ten's Swimmer of the Week on Oct. 17. Rice owns the Badgers' top times this season in both the 100- and 200-yard backstrokes and has qualified provisionally for the NCAAs in both events. Rice set the school record in the 200 with a time of 1:45.80 on Dec. 2.