On Thursday after practice, Indiana University decided to split their men’s team into American and International relay teams to race head-to-head in a 200 medley relay and a 400 freestyle relay. Each team suited up for this intrasquad competition.
In the 400 freestyle relay, the World team of Rafael Miroslaw (43.0), Tomer Frankel (43.1), Bruno Blaskovic (42.4), and Gabriel Fantoni (42.5) won in 2:51.30. The Americans touched at 2:52.20. The team consisted of Van Mathias (43.5), Brendan Burns (43.4), Gavin Wright (42.8), and Jack Franzman (42.4).
At last year’s NCAA Championships, Indiana placed 11th in the 400 freestyle relay. The team posted a 2:50.38 with Franzman (42.92), Frankel (42.29), Burns (43.40), and Mathias (41.77). In practice, Burns’s split ties his split from last year’s NCAA Championship meet.. Franzman’s practice split time was faster than his leg at NCAAs, but he led off the relay last year and had a flying start as anchor in practice. This same quartet are the reigning Big Ten champions in the 400 freestyle relay (2:49.20). At Big Tens the relay order was Frankel, Mathias, Burns, Franzman.
In the 200 Medley Relay, the World team also came out on top with a time of 1:24.30, narrowly edging the Americans who went 1:24.60. The world team consisted of Fantoni (20.6), Blaskovic (23.9), Frankel (20.4), and Miroslaw (19.4). The Americans went with Jacob Steele (20.9), Mathias (23.9), Burns (20.5), and Franzman (19.2).
The Hoosiers are trying to fill a breaststroke void in their roster since five-time All American Zane Backes announced his retirement from competitive swimming last week. Backes swam the breaststroke leg on the 200 (23.11) and 400 (50.69) medley relays last year at NCAA championships.
Either Blaskovic, a fifth-year, and Mathias, a senior, may be the answer for the breaststroke leg Indiana needs to figure out for championships. Indiana could opt to use freshman Josh Matheny for its relay needs. At the Ohio State Invitational last month, Matheny split a 23.58 on the breaststroke leg of the 200 medley relay. It is interesting that Indiana did not use Matheny on this American intersquad relay and instead opted to put Mathias in the lineup, who swims mostly fly and IM for the Hoosiers. It will take a lot for one of these three men to match Backes’s split from NCAA Championships.
Looking at Manthey, Blaskovic and Mathias’s splits compared to each other, Matheny had the quickest split of the three, but it’s important to note that Matheny’s comparison split is from a sanctioned mid-season meet, as opposed to an informal competition at the end of practice.
Blaskovic is predominantly a freestyle and butterfly sprinter. At the 2020 Big Ten Championships, Blaskovic was named swimmer of the meet as he won titles in the 50 free, 100 free, 200 medley relay (free), 200 freestyle relay, 400 medley (free), and 400 free relay. At 2020 Big Tens he also placed second in the 100 fly. In 2021, Blaskovic missed Big Tens and NCAAs due to an injury. As sprinting force for Indiana, it will be interesting to see if Blaskovic picks up breaststroke duties for relays and have someone else take over for the freestyle leg.
Mathias, known for his butterfly and IM skills. Last year at Big Tens he placed 2nd in the 200 IM, and took 4th in the 100 and 200 fly. He also was a member of the winning 200 and 400 freestyle relays, and the 3rd place 800 freestyle relay.
With Big Ten Championships set to take place next month, the Hoosiers will likely use their final duel meet against Evansville next weekend to get some breaststroke clarity before entering championship season.