Feb. 18, 2007
COLUMBUS, Ohio - After two and half days of intensity-packed, record-breaking action at the 2007 Big Ten Men's Swimming and Diving Championships, the meet's grand finale exceeded all precedents. The championship title was decided in the very final race, as Minnesota came from behind to claim its third Big Ten crown in four years with a gold-medal performance in the 400-yard freestyle relay.
The Gophers became only the second team ever to win the team title without claiming gold in any individual events. The first team to do so was the 2004
championship Minnesota squad, which used a first-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle relay to claim the trophy.
In the 400-yard freestyle relay, Minnesota edged Northwestern in the third leg when Mike Woodsoon took over in the fourth despite never having swam the stretch in his career. The Minnesota junior held on stoically to win by a hand's length as the Gophers clocked in at 2:53.83. The Wildcats followed closely at 2:53.99.
With the relay victory, Minnesota edged Michigan by a score of 612.5-608.5 in the final team standings. The hosting Buckeyes snuck ahead of Indiana by one point to claim third-place with a score of 495. Northwestern led all teams with 10 gold medals for the championships and finished fifth with 470 points. Purdue scored 375.5 for sixth, followed by Penn State (295), Wisconsin (245.5) and Iowa (118). Michigan State rounded out the team standings with 106 points.
The conclusion of a thrilling Big Ten Championships was not just full of conference history, but also packed with swimming history.
Michigan's Matt Patton, who won the 500-yard freestyle on Friday, kicked off the last night of finals, adding another gold to his collection with a win in the 1,650-yard freestyle. Patton becomes the 19th swimmer in Big Ten history to claim both of the long-distance freestyle event titles. His time of 14:54.27 in the mile-long swim ranks fourth in the country and earns him automatic qualification for the NCAAs.
Overall, there were 16 swimmers who qualified at least provisionally. Touching the wall next at 14:58.20 was Minnesota's Mike Holmes with another A-standard. Patton's teammate Charlie Houchin padded the Michigan lead, coming in third at 15:07.37. Indiana's Alex Brunfeld clocked in less than a second later for fourth with a time of 15:07.97, followed by yet another Wolverine in sophomore Christian Sprang. The trio stretched the Maize and Blue lead to 22 points, but the security wouldn't last long.
After losing the 100-yard backstroke for only the first time in his career, Northwestern's Matt Grevers exacted a little revenge and a huge piece of history in Sunday night's 200-yard backstroke final.
Grevers sped through the pool and shattered the meet record with a gold-medal time of 1:39.53. The Wildcats' 21-time All-American became only the third swimmer in the history of the event to notch a sub-1:40 time. It marked Grevers' first ever win in the event at the Big Ten Championships as he picked up his second individual gold of the 2007 conference meet.
The next swimmer in was Penn State's Patrick Shirk, who secured silver-medal honors with a time of 1:42.74. Indiana's Ben Hesen, who snapped Grevers' streak in the 100 and won gold in the event Saturday, clocked in at 1:42.94 for bronze. Minnesota's David Plummer followed in fourth place (1:43.16), while Romain Maire of Purdue (1:43.63) and Michigan's Andre Schultz (1:44.46) took fifth and sixth respectively. Buckeye senior Nate King and Wisconsin's Mike Hopkins rounded out the finals.
The top five finalists secured NCAA A standards while eight more garnered B-standard marks.
With Gophers Russ Payne and Dan Berve taking the top two spots in the consolation race, Michigan's lead shrank to a slime seven points over Minnesota.
The Wildcats added even more souvenirs in the 100-yard freestyle final, with Bruno Barbic and Kyle Bubolz claiming gold and silver medals respectively.
Barbic, who earned gold in Northwestern's 200-yard freestyle and 400-yard medley relays, counted his first career individual gold at the conference meet with a time of 43.14. His teammate, who won the 100-yard butterfly on Saturday, followed closely at 43.31 for silver. Both qualified automatically for NCAAs, while 14 more followed with provisional qualifying marks.
Minnesota's Igor Cerensek and Michigan's Bobby Savulich came down to the wire before both touched the wall at 43.39. Cerensek's teammate Tyler Schmidt snagged fourth-place with a time of 43.63, edging Ohio State's Matt Voelker by 0.04 seconds.
The duo gave Minnesota a chance to jump into the leader's spot, and the pair of Wildcats pulled Northwestern ahead of Indiana for fourth.
In the 200-yard breaststroke, another Wildcat made swimming history. No other swimmer came close to reaching Mike Alexandrov as he claimed his third individual victory of the championships with a Big Ten-record time of 1:52.93. Not only did the Wildcat senior smash the meet standard, but it was also the fourth-fastest performance all-time in the event. Alexandrov's mark was also more than a second within the American record of 1:51.74 set by Brendan Hansen last March.
Alexandrov, who garnered more points for his team than any other athlete in the championships, was later named Swimmer of the Championships. Indiana's Pat Penoyar followed in second with a time of 1:56.75, and Michigan's Scott Spann claimed bronze at 1:57.88. A total of nine swimmers garnered at least provisional qualification to the NCAAs.
The 200-yard butterfly final was stacked with Maize and Blue as three Wolverines earned spots in the top eight. Alex Vanderkaay claimed his second individual gold of the championships for Michigan with a time of 1:43.29. The mark barely missed the meet record of 1:43.29 set by Michigan's own Davis Tarwater in 2004 by 0.03 seconds and is the fastest time in the country this year.
Indiana's Nick Walkotten followed with the second-fastest time in the nation at 1:43.85. Vanderkaay's teammate Curtis Dauw clocked in third at 1:44.84, while Dane Grenda finished fifth at 1:46.27. The top three nabbed A-standard marks, and seven more followed with provisional qualifications.
Wes Weiser put on quite the melodrama for the crowd in the platform diving portion of the finals. After securing the top seed, the Ohio State senior nailed one of the best dives of the championships in the third round with a score of 85.80. The gold seemed like an easy task until a 35.70-gaffe on his fifth-round dive nearly put the title out of reach. Weiser rebounded with the most spectacular dive of the weekend in the sixth round, scoring 91.80 to secure the gold with an overall title with a tally of 394.80.
Ohio State became the first team to sweep all three diving events since 1995.
At the conclusion of the the championships, the first and second All-Big Ten teams were named. The first team includes Indiana's Ben Hesen; Michigan's Sal Barba, Matt Patton, Bobby Savulich and Alex Vanderkaay; Minnesota's Igor Cerensek, Mario Delac, Tyler Schmidt and Mike Woodson; Northwestern's Matt Alexandrov, Bruno Barbic, Kyle Bubolz, Matt Grevers and Eric Nilsson; and Ohio State's Kellen Harkness, Berkley Showe and Wes Weiser.
Harkness was also named Diver of the Year and shared Diver of the Championships honors with teammate Berkley Showe. Their mentor Vince Panzano was also named Diving Coach of the Year.
Purdue's Danny Cox and Ohio State's Berkley Showe shared Freshman of the Year accolades. Alexandrov was named Swimmer of the Championships, while his teammate Grevers was tabbed Swimmer of the Year. Their coach Bob Groseth was voted Swimming Coach of the Year, along with Michigan's Bob Bowman.