Indiana Takes 2006 Big Ten Championships
The top two teams were the same as last year, but the results were drastically different. The Indiana Hoosiers avenged their second-place finish in 2005 by dominating the championships from start to finsh and winning by 108.5 points over their nearest competitior, defending Big Ten Champion Minnesota.
Though they only won one gold on the night, the big lead the Hoosiers had built throughout the first two days of the championship held up and Indiana won the 2006 Big Ten Championships in their home pool. For the Hoosiers, it was the 24th title in team history, but the first in 21 years.
Big Ten Co-Swimmer of the Year, Michigan's Peter Vanderkaay, got the evening off to an exciting start by dominating a very talented field of competitors in the mile freestyle. He showed why he one of the best freestylers in the country by winning with a time that beat his competitors by over 19.5 seconds. Sergiy Fesenko's time was good enough for automatic qualification into the NCAA Championships, where he will have another shot at beating Vanderkaay, the reigning NCAA Champion. Minnesota's Travis Beckerle came in third, leading a group of eight swimmers who qualified provisionally for the NCAAs. Vanderkaay became the first person to win the 500-, 200- and 1,650-yard freestyle in one year since 1990.
The 200-yard backstroke was next, with Michigan's Chris DeJong entering the finals as the favorite. The two-time defending Big Ten Champion and Big Ten Championships meet record holder successfully defended his title with an A-standard time of 1:42.94. Minnesota's Adam Mitchell took silver in the event and fellow Gopher David Plummer took bronze. Roman Maier of Purdue took bronze, followed by two Buckeyes, RJ Lemyre and Nate King, in fourth and fifth place.
After the 16th event of the championships, Indiana still leads team competition with 564.5 points, Minnesota sits in second with 494 points followed by Michigan's 422 and Northwestern's 305.
Northwestern's Matt Grevers picked up his fifth gold of the weekend, but his competitors did not make it easy for him in the 100-freestyle. Grevers was the third seed in the event, but was also the defending Big Ten Champion. Igor Cerensek of Minnesota was the top-seed and the only swimmer in the event who achieved automatic qualification prior to the start. Not to be forgotten was Grevers' teammate and, Kyle Bubolz who came in with the second seed. The three were all within striking distance for the gold. It came down to the wire and the crowd was on the edge of their seats as it was impossible to determine who had the advantage. In the end, Grevers used his long reach to touch the wall just more than 3/10th of a second ahead of Bubolz. Cerensek finished just behind the pair of Wildcats.
The 200-yard breaststroke turned out to be one of the most exciting races of the night. Giordan Poglioli of Purdue, Indiana's Kevin Swander and Mike Alexandrov of Northwestern took turns leading the race for each of the eight lengths. The crowd was on their feet before Alexandrov touched barely a fingertip in front by 4/100ths of a second with a time of 1:55.19. Poglioli took silver, and Swander finished just behind him. The top three finishers were all within 5/100ths of a second of each other as it was truly anyone's race to win. The gold medal was the second straight for Northwestern. Alexandrov set a new Big Ten record with his time and all three medalists automatically qualified for the national championship meet.
Defending NCAA Champion in the 200-yard butterfly, Tarwater had a hard time trying to defend his Big Ten Championship in the event. Teammate Alex Vanderkaay and Indiana freshman Kevin Swander did not let Tarwater out of their reach. Vanderkaay led with 100-yards remaining, but Tarwater then took over in final two laps, passing his teammate and holding off pressure from a surging Swander. Tarwater's time of 1:43.97 was good enough for his third consecutive gold in the event, and completed the trifecta of gold for Michigan's senior tri-captains in their last Big Ten meet.
The platform diving finals included some of the best dives of the championships. It once again came down to the end, where the top seeded diver, Brian Mariano didn't disappoint the home. As the last diver, he knew he needed 80 points to take gold, and with the most exciting dive of the night, he put up an incredible score to win by over six points as the crowd erupted. It was the exclamation point of the Hoosiers' weekend.
There was still one more race to be swum, and that was the 400-yard freestyle relay. Though it was the last event of the weekend, the teams from Minnesota, Northwestern and Michigan posted A-cut times and set a new pool record. Minnesota put up the second-best time in the country to edge out the Wildcats, whose time was the nation's third-best.
Throughout the weekend, 47 Big Ten swimmers qualified automatically for the NCAA Championships, and an astounding 220 qualified provisionally. Five new Big Ten records were set, as were numerous pool and meet records on the exciting weekend.
Final Team Scores