200 yard freestyle relay
The Big Ten has never been a conference built around sprinting. It has a long, illustrious history as a swimming conference, but most of that success has been focused on middle-distance swimming. Minnesota, however, has always bucked that trend, and this Gophers sprinting squad might be the best ever. Lead-off by a 19.05 from 50 free champion Michael Richards (tying Auburn’s Adam Brown for second-best in the country), and followed up by a trio of 19.2’s, Minnesota laid down a Big Ten Championship Record 1:16.78. This formidable foursome of Richards, Curt Carlson, Zach Bolin, and Derek Toomey might even challenge the vaunted Auburn squad that previously seemed untouchable. What a swim for the Golden Gophers.
Ohio State nailed their relay starts and a great split of 19.28 from Lincoln Fahrbach to take second in 1:18.23. These starts were the difference between them and third-place Iowa, who touched in 1:18.28. Paul Gordon was the star for the Hawkeyes, and split a 19.00 that was the fastest split in the entire field. In a bit of a role reversal for the conference, it appears as though the conference could get as many as five sprint relays, compared to only three last season, into the NCAA Championship field, with 4h place Michigan and 5th place Indiana joining the party.
400 yard individual medley
It’s time to etch another name amongst the all-time great Michigan 400 IM’ers. This includes Tyler Clary, the fastest 400 yard IM ever; Tom Dolan, who won two Olympic gold medals in this event; Tim Siciliano; Alex Vanderkaay; and heck, even former Club Wolverine swimmer Michael Phelps. By the time he’s done, Whitaker may knock all of them out of the Michigan record books, after he won this race in a 3:41.06. This is the second-best time in the country this season (behind Conor Dwyer, who nobody is going to beat if he swims this at NCAA’s).
He was well ahead of the field in this race. Northwestern’s Alex Tyler swam a 3:47.00 for second-place that will probably be good enough for him to score at NCAA’s, but wasn’t good enough to keep him within 10 yards of Whitaker. This is Northwestern’s bread-and-butter race, as they also got a 6th-place finish from Charlie Rimkus. Penn State’s Scott Marino was third in 3:47.52, and will be waiting on the edge of his seat to see if he earns an invite to NCAA’s.
100 yard butterfly
The college class of 2013 was a hallmark year for Big Ten butterflying. This wasn’t that obvious, until sophomores grabbed four out of the top 5 places in the 100 fly on day 3. But it wasn’t National Teamer Tim Phillips from Ohio State who held on to the top spot amongst the four. It was a total shock victory from Michigan’s Sean Fletcher, who even we knew very little about before this race. Fletcher was one of the better high school swimmers in this race ever, including a 47.0 his senior year. This season, however, he wasn’t even ranked in the top-75 in the country and wasn’t on anybody’s radar.
But coach Mike Bottom worked some real magic here, and Fletcher won the Big Ten title in 45.69. This is the second-best time in the country this season. But this isn’t to say that runner-up Tim Phillips from Ohio State didn’t live up to his billing and swim an outstanding time. His 45.92 is a career-best and NCAA qualifying time, and places him just behind Fletcher for the third-best time in the country.
As for the other two great sophomores, Wisconsin’ Daniel Lester was 3rd in 46.46 and Michigan State’s Jacob Jarzen was 5th in 46.69. Both of those are school-records.
200 yard freestyle
Daniel Madwed continued a perfect Big Ten career in this 200 free with his third conference title in as many seasons in this event. As is so often true in these 200 yard races, he used a great third 50 (he was the only competitor under 24 on that leg) to slingshot himself to a big finish. His winning time was 1:34.36. His teammate Hassan Abdel-Khalik was second in 1:35.40.
The two Wolverines were followed by another top-3 finish from the Iowa Hawkeyes, with Paul Gordon grabbing the bronze in 1:35.46. In addition to his teammate Ryan Phelan in the 50 free on day 2, Gordon has a shot at being Iowa’s first NCAA qualifier since 2007.
100 yard breaststroke
This 100 breaststroke was a great battle, but none of the lead pack were names that were expected to be there in this race. Besides that, in yet another surprise in this wild Big Ten Championship, Indiana freshman Cody Miller, who entered this meet with little national acclaim or recognition, will leave with the fastest 100 breaststroke time in the country. Yes, that’s right, he became the first swimmer in the country this season to go sub-53 with a winning time of 52.9. Indiana has been outperforming expectations all-meet long, perhaps feeding off of the Hoosier womens’ Big Ten Championship the weekend before.
The runner-up was another name you haven’t heard of: Penn State’s Mitch Scherer, who was stroke for stroke with Miller until the very last moment of the race, and became the second swimmer in the country this season to break 53 seconds, with a 52.96. Minnesota’s Ivan Gutesa also had a great time, which shouldn’t be a surprise with what the Gopher coaching staff has done with their women’s breaststrokers, to finish third in 53.19.
Who would’ve thought, coming into this loaded week, that the Big Ten of all places would be the place where the first two sub-53 100 breaststrokes would come from this season? Not only that, who could have imagined that neither one of those two was Ohio State’s Elliott Keefer, who’s one of the best breaststrokers in the country, but finished 4th in this race in 53.47?
100 yard backstroke
Not only are individual swimmers on a serious roll in this meet; the entire conference is blowing away everyone’s expectations. Another race, and another National-best time in the 100 backstroke. Ress blew away his own time from the 400 medley, which was previously the Big Ten Championship Record, and finished in 45.11. That matches Eugene Godsoe’s NCAA winning time from last year. Ress dominated every lap of this race, and he is having an absolutely incredible meet, and I’m getting goosebumps of excitement to think about his 200 back on the final day, which is his best event.
More importantly for Indiana, their second-straight win (over a favored Ohio State Buckeye) padded their second-place standing in the meet. Andrew Elliott had an off-swim by his standards, but was still good enough for second in 47.02. Sean Fletcher, winner of the 100 fly, continued his breakout performance with a third-place time here of 47.05.
There are a lot of great diving programs, and a lot of great divers in the Big Ten. Purdue’s David Boudia made them all look pedestrian for the second time in this meet with a nearly-100-point win in the 3-meter. His 509.90 broke his own Big Ten Record, and he is looking as fit as ever this season. Not only is he going to be great at NCAA’s, but with his continued improvements off of already world-class quality, he brings hope to US National Diving Team on the international stage, where they lost some of their luster in recent years.
Michigan has made their misstep last season a distant memory (heck, half of their current roster wasn’t around for the drudging that Ohio State put on them in 2010), and will continue to stretch their lead on the fourth day of competition. With great performances in both swimming and diving, it seems unlikely that Indiana will allow themselves to be caught by Ohio State for second, and the Buckeyes are solidly in third.
1. Michigan 461
2. Indiana 406
3. Ohio State 352
4. Minnesota 278.5
5. Purdue 181.5
6. Penn State 167.5
7. Wisconsin 141
8. Northwestern 125.5
9. Michigan State 122.5
10. Iowa 118.5