The crowd at Minnesota's University Aquatic Center has been spoiled with exceptional performances by both swimmers and divers throughout the first two days of the 2005 Big Ten Men's Swimming and Diving Championships. On the second night of competition they were again rewarded with impressive times and record breaking efforts. In addition to Northwestern's four titles on the evening, the night was highlighted by an intense battle atop the leader-board between Minnesota's consistent top-finishing swimmers and Indiana's dominant divers and increasingly impressive swimmers.
The first event of the night, the 200-yard medley relay, had been one of the most closely contested throughout the regular season. Four teams were within one second of the Golden Gophers, who held the Big Ten's regular season top time at 1:28.40. Northwestern, one of those teams bunched at the top of the event's times, led from the get go, opening up a body length lead after the first 100-yards. The lead remained consistent until the final 25-yards as Ales Volcansek of Minnesota closed hard on the freestyle leg. However, Wildcat Ben Dexter held on to win their third straight relay title of this championships, with a time of 1:26.49, good for an NCAA automatic qualifying time. The Wildcats' performance is unofficially the second fastest time in the country this season. Minnesota finished in second in the nation's unofficial third best time of the year, followed by Michigan. The Indiana Hoosiers came in fourth, with Penn State, Michigan State, and Ohio State finishing fifth through seventh. Purdue and Iowa rounded out the scoring. Wisconsin was disqualified for an early jump.
The second event of the night, the 400-yard individual medley, boasted some of the fastest times in the country, with four of the top-11 times in of the season, including defending champion Michigan's Peter Vanderkaay's fifth best time in the nation. In the preliminary heats, Minnesota's Adam Mitchell took the top time with a 3:47.05 performance, which was under the NCAA's automatic qualifying standard. The race, competitive throughout, was virtually tied after 100-yards. Justin Mortimer, Peter Vanderkaay, and Timothy Liebhold touching nearly in unison. Northwestern's Mike Alexandrov fought back to take the lead at the 300-yard turn with Peter Vanderkaay touching closely after. However, Peter Vanderkaay took advantage of the freestyle 100 yards and edged out Alexandrov with a time of 3:44:55. Vanderkaay's victory marked the eighth straight year that a Wolverine has earned the 400 IM's gold medal. Alexandrov finished with a time of 3:45.57, followed by Wisconsin's Liebhold and Minnesota's Mortimer. The top-four all earned an NCAA automatic qualification. Mitchell finished fifth with Michigan's Check Sayao next. Northwestern's Brian Davis touched the wall with the seventh fastest time and Michigan's Alex Vanderkaay rounded out the final's scoring.
The two top teams heading into the evening's finals, Minnesota and Indiana, dominated the qualifying of the 100-yard butterfly. Despite having five finalists between them, the top two spots went to Northwestern's Kyle Bubolz and Michigan's Davis Tarwater. Bubolz swam the fastest prelim time with a 46.49 second-showing and Tarwater was next at 47.05. Both times earned NCAA A-standards, but just like in the prelims, Bubolz edged out Tarwater, with both having efforts under the A-standard. This time, however, Bubolz set a new all-time Big Ten record with a time of 46.46 seconds. Tarwater came in at 46.68, good for second and Indiana's Scott Tanner finished third. Minnesota's Dan Berve touched the wall in the fourth position followed by Hoosier Murph Halasz and Gopher teammate Neil Osten. IU's third finalist, Thomas Clavier, took the seventh position and Penn State's Patrik Johansson finished eighth.
Minnesota's Terry Silkaitis, the 2003 Champion in the 200-yard freestyle, paced the field in the event's prelims. His time of 1:35.61 earned him an NCAA automatic qualification. In this event, Minnesota and Indiana again dominated the qualifying sending a combined five swimmers to the event's finals. Silkaitis led the Gophers' war of attrition winning the race in a new pool record time of 1:34.24. Indiana's Colin Russell finished in second in 1:35.78, both times were under the NCAA A-standard. The Maroon and Gold claimed the third and fourth spots with Igor Cerensek and Sean McCaffrey touching the wall next. Michigan's Andrew Hurd finished in fifth and Badger Eric Wiesner placed sixth. Penn State freshman Sean Biedermann took the seventh spot and Hoosier Sergiy Fesenko rounded out the final's finishers.
Mike Alexandrov has led the way in the 100-yard breaststroke all season. His time of 53.37 is the second fastest in the country in the 2004-2005 season. The Northwestern sophomore was one of three Wildcats to earn the top time in qualifying on Friday. After pacing the field with a time of 53.33 seconds, Alexandrov climbed to the top of the award's podium for the fourth time in two days, his second trip as an individual. Indiana's Kevin Swander followed closely behind, as did Michigan State's Ian Clutten. All three posted times under the NCAA's A-standard. Rob Kauscher of The Ohio State University finished in fourth and Purdue's Giordan Pogioli touched the wall in fifth. Minnesota freshman Jason Timmer placed sixth, Michigan's Christian Vanderkaay in seventh, and Louis Torres of Northwestern in eighth.
The Big Ten Championships' record holder in the 100-yard backstroke was at it again during Friday's qualifying. Northwestern's Matt Grevers, unofficially swam the nation's third fastest time in the event during is prelim heat. His 46.73 seconds earned him an NCAA A-standard as did Wisconsin's Adam Mania's 47.00 seconds. It would have been difficult for Grevers to improve upon his preliminary performance, but he found a way. Moving up the unofficial national ladder with a time of 45.92 seconds to the second spot, he repeated as the champion in the 100-yard backstroke to win Northwestern's fourth title of the evening and seventh of the championships. Mania finished second with a time of 46.86 seconds, followed by Minnesota's David Plummer who took home third. All top-three times were under the NCAA's automatic qualifying standard. Chris DeJong from the University of Michigan finished fourth and Purdue's Louis Paul took fifth. Next was Indiana's Ben Hesen, Dan Berve from Minnesota, and Ohio State's R.J. Lemyre.
For the second straight day, the Indiana Hoosiers controlled the qualifying off of the boards. Led by Marc Carlton, the Hoosiers sent four divers into the eight man finals' field and Ohio State claimed three more spots. In the three-meter diving event, semifinal scores carry over into the championship round. Carlton had the most carryover points with 227.1 and last year's champion, Ohio State's Mitch Richeson, had 209.5. The prelim leader and the defending champion went dive for dive throughout the final competition. With each trip into the water the lead was alternated. Purdue's Steven LoBue held the lead for one round as well, but it was Carlton who took home the Big Ten title and the all-time conference mark with 667.30 points on his 11 combined dives. Richeson ended up in second with a score of 650.20. Indiana claimed the third, fourth, and sixth positions, with Ryan Fagan, Alex Burns, and Jesse Rappaport respectively. Nestled in between the mass of Hoosiers was fifth place finisher LoBue. Ohio State claimed the seventh and eighth spots with Nick Hanneman and Kellen Harkness. With a strong number of swimmers making it to event finals, the Hoosier diving team's performance off of the three-meter springboard catapulted Indiana up 74 points to overtake the Gophers and claim first place after 13 events.
The final event of the day was the 800-yard freestyle relay. The Michigan Wolverines own the conference's only automatic qualifying time coming into the event finals at 6:24.88, good for fourth best in the nation this season. The Gophers, Badgers, and Wildcats have all earned provisional standards in the event as well. Coming into the race, Northwestern had swept the Championships' first three relays, but the Maize and Blue of Michigan ended the streak, swimming an unofficial third best time in the country. Their 6:21.77 performance tied their Big Ten Championships record from last year. The Gophers earned valuable double relay points by finishing second in 6:23.11, also earning an NCAA automatic qualification. Wisconsin finished off the pace in third position, followed by Indiana and Purdue. Penn State had the sixth fastest time and Michigan State the seventh. Ohio State, Northwestern, and Iowa rounded out the relay.
After two days, the race at the top of the standings is fierce. On the strength of their second place showing in the 800 free, Minnesota bounced back into the meet's leadership position by the slimmest of margins. The Gophers' 469 points edges out the Hoosiers' 468. Despite seven championships in two days, Northwestern sits in third with 327 points. Michigan currently resides in fourth with 282 points. Ohio State is in fifth with 240 and Purdue in sixth with 213. The Badgers of Wisconsin are next with 191 and Penn State is in eighth with 184. Michigan State sits in seventh with 138 points and Iowa rounds out the scoring with 82 points.
Going into the championships' final day, the battle up top will draw the attention, but lurking in fourth is Michigan. Traditionally the Wolverines dominate the distance events at this meet and still possess an outside shot at the title with the 1650-yard freestyle and 400 free relay to come. The story on Saturday will be whether Minnesota can muster enough points to stave off an onslaught of Hoosier divers scoring well in off of the platform, the team's best diving event. So far, the 2005 Big Ten Men's Swimming and Diving Championships have supplied excitement at every turn, and the third and final day promises to provide the same.
Preliminary swimming action begins at 12:00 p.m. Central Time and the first round of platform diving starts at 1:30 p.m. Check back to BigTen.org for live results and continuing coverage of the 2005 Big Ten Men's Swimming and Diving Championships.