Welcome back to the deepest Conference Championship meet this side of California, as the Big Ten Men’s Championship rolled on.
Michigan put a huge gap into the team standings, but defiant of the team standings each race was thrilling for one reason or another.
Men’s 200 Free Relay
The Iowa Hawkeyes won their first Big Ten title in any swimming event in over a decade (since the year 2000) when they topped the men’s 200 free relay in 1:17.61. That makes this group of Ryan Phelan (19.71), Duncan Partridge (19.29), Gianni Sesto (19.77), and Paul Gordon (18.84) the 4th-best relay in the country this season, and the 4th-best relay in Big Ten history.
That’s a great set of sprint legs, specifically the revelation of Gordon as possibly one of the best 50 freestylers in the country. What’s an even bigger surprise than Gordon was Sesto, a sophomore out of Las Vegas. Until this meet, he had never flat-started better than a 20.8 in his life. By way of topping junior Jordan Huff in Thursday’s individual race, however, he earned his way onto this relay and had a very successful debut.
This was another tight finish, as Ohio State took 2nd in 1:17.70. Jason Schnur led off that group in 19.12, which is the fastest time in the country this season by over a tenth.
Michigan placed 3rd in 1:17.84. They had matching rolling-start splits from Miguel Ortiz and Dan Madwed in 19.27. Purdue (1:18.10) and Minnesota (1:18.26) took 4th and 5th, That’s an extremely fast top 5 earning time.
Men’s 400 IM
Michigan sophomoreKyle Whitaker made it two-for-two in this event as a collegian by successfully defending his Big Ten Championship in 3:41.04. That’s nearly identical to his winning time from last season (3:41.06), and knowing that he’s almost certainly improved since last season, specifically in improvement to his closing speed on the final freestyle sprint. He stands the best chance of challenging Arizona’s Austen Thompson for the NCAA title in this event.
Besides winning his 2nd-straight, this swim marks 15-straight titles in an event that has become nearly synonymous with the University of Michigan. They’ve taken every title since 1997.
Wisconsin’s Michael Weiss again broke his school record in the 400 IM by finishing 2nd in 3:43.80. Those inside of Wisconsin were really high on Weiss coming into this championship, and he’s certainly met that hype in the meet.
Men’s 100 Fly
Wisconsin continued to roll through an impressive meet with another runner-up swim, this time from Daniel Lester in the 100 fly: he took 2nd in 46.07, which cut a tenth off of his best time from last year’s National Championship meet.
Lester brought a lot of excitement to Badger fans, but it was another Daniel, Dan Madwed, in 46.02 for an automatic qualifying mark. Michigan took 3rd in 46.16.
Michigan State’s Jacob Jarzen took 4th in 46.42.
Men’s 200 Free
Out of Michigan’s huge, and highly touted, sophomore class, only one of the 8 remaining swimmers who are completing their 2nd season competing for the maize and blue is a Michigan native, and that’s Michael Wynalda. He didn’t amaze anybody in his first season in Ann Arbor – he peaked in a 1:38 in the 200 free, and didn’t even crack Michigan’s Big Ten lineup.
Let’s chalk this one up to a “late bloomer”. Wynalda is turning into another great Michigan 200 freestyler, and won the Big Ten Championship in the event in 1:34.10.
In 2nd was Wynalda’s classmate Connor Jaeger in 1:35.30. His best events are the longer 500 and mile, but he’s really worked on increasing his versatility this season. That time is his best by over a second, and can only serve to help him in the longer races.
Iowa’s Paul Gordon posted a 1:35.36 for 3rd. While by no means a bad time, his training seems to have turned him more towards the sprints this season (the 200 was his best event last year).
Men’s 100 Breast
Indiana’s Cody Miller is another sophomore who extended a 2-for-2 streak by taking his 2nd straight Big Ten title in the event in 52.34. That breaks a 6-year old school record in the event held by National Teamer Kevin Swander at 52.64, and makes Miller the 2nd-fastest swimmer in Big Ten history.
He’s got a ways to go to catch leader Mike Alexandrov, the American Record holder in the race, of Northwestern. He holds the Big Ten Record at 51.56.
Michigan freshman Bruno Ortiz nearly broke the Wolverines’ school record as well, but fell just short with a runner-up time of 52.72. That is an NCAA automatic qualifying time, however, and the 3rd-best in the country this season.
Third went to another Michigan freshman Richard Funk in 53.15. The Wolverines graduated three of their four best breaststrokers last season, but have reloaded very quickly and emerged even better in the event.
Men’s 100 Backstroke
When we interviewed redshirted Indiana All-American backstroker Eric Ress earlier this season, he identified James Wells as a swimmer who was ready to step up for the Hoosiers and help fill in the gap.
Ress nailed it. Wells continued a great season with a Big Ten title victory in 46.30.
The race came down to the perfect finish, and Wells got his fingers on the wall ahead of Michigan junior Miguel Ortiz in 46.33.
Penn State freshman Nate Savoy and sophomore Sean Grier took 3rd and 4th in 46.60 and 47.16, respectively. When the Nittany Lions add class of 2012 recruit Shane Ryan to their roster next season, they’re going to have by far the best backstroke training group in the conference.
Iowa freshman Grant Betulius broke the Iowa Record in this event for the 2nd time this season with a 47.30 for 5th. This season, he’s cut exactly a second off of a mark that had stood for an incredible 20 seasons.
Men’s 3-Meter Diving
Indiana again pulled back close to Ohio State thanks to 6 scorers on the men’s 3-meter, including a win from Darian Schmidt with a very good score of 459.30. Minnesota’s Mikey Ross was 2nd in 423.50.
Michigan looks well on their way to winning their fourth Big Ten Championship in the last five years, despite not getting much help from their divers.
Indiana’s DQ’ed 400 free relay continues to haunt them as they now sit only 11 points back for runner-up position behind Ohio State. Both teams are swimming extremely well, but the Buckeyes are lined up huge on the final day of the meet. That includes the top three seeds in the 200 backstroke. Even with the 50+ points that Indiana should make up on the platform event, coming back for 3rd will be a challenge.
Iowa and Penn State should launch into a great battle for 4th place as well. Both squads’ best day of the meet is behind them, and Iowa’s cushion should be enough to hang on for their highest finish since 1995. The Nittany Lions should be able to make the competition close enough, however, that the final relay will matter. That edge would go to the Hawkeyes.
1. Michigan 516.5
2. Ohio State 380
3. Indiana 369
4. Iowa 274
5. Penn State 235.5
6. Minnesota 235
7. Purdue 204
8. Wisconsin 165
9. Northwestern 118
10. Michigan State 86