Gophers annihilate swimming and diving competition

  • Article by: AARON PAITICHSPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
  • Updated: February 24, 2013 - 12:41 AM

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The Gophers didn't just defend their Big Ten Championships title at the Aquatic Center this week -- they made a statement.

Minnesota celebrated its fifth Big Ten title in school history Saturday night with 831.5 points, 160 points ahead of second-place Indiana.

Senior Haley Spencer knew her team could pull it off, but this was something special.

"We swam lights out," Spencer said. "I've never seen a group swim this fast."

With six Big Ten teams ranked in the nation's top 25, Minnesota, the highest-ranked at No. 12, annihilated its competition. If its 10-0 duals and 6-0 Big Ten record weren't enough to catch anyone's eyes, the Big Ten Championships showing certainly will.

"A lot of coaches here have come up to us and said this is the most dominant women's team they've seen perform at the Big Ten Championships in a long time," Gophers coach Kelly Kremer said.

The Gophers captured titles in 10 events to earn the team championship.

Spencer and sophomore Rebecca Weiland each had five first-place finishes, counting relays, to lead the team. Junior Erin Caflisch won four.

"It feels good to do what we planned on doing, which was dominate the conference," Spencer said.

Junior Maggie Keefer captured the 1-meter and 3-meter diving crowns while finishing sixth in the platform and was honored as the top diver of the championships. She was co-diver of the championships last year.

The Gophers were tied for first with Indiana after the first day of competition Wednesday, which included two of the 21 events. Tess Behrens, Spencer, Weiland and Caflisch won the 200-yard medley relay, while the 800 freestyle relay took second place to end the day tied at 74-74.

After that, the home team cruised.

Minnesota held a 92-point lead after the second day. The 200 freestyle relay team of Weiland, Caflisch, Blake Zeiger and Lauren Votava set a Big Ten record of 1:28.43. Tori Simenec edged out Penn State's Merritt Krawczyk by .07 seconds to take the 200 individual medley.

The Gophers won four titles Friday to inflate their lead to 141 points heading into the final day.

Weiland, a sophomore, broke the school, meet and Big Ten records in the 100 butterfly with a 51.61 mark. She then helped the 400 medley relay team of Behrens, Spencer and Caflisch claim the championship with a 3:31.45 time. Spencer won her first title in the 100 breaststroke.

The Gophers held a 141-point lead entering the final day of competition and sealed the deal Saturday. Spencer won her third consecutive conference title in the 200 breaststroke, finishing with a 2:05.98 mark. Freshman Kierra Smith finished second. Sophomore Devin Ste. Marie added a runner-up finish in the 200 butterfly.

Votava, Weiland, Caflisch and Zeiger ended the meet with a 3:15.18 first-place finish in the 400 freestyle relay.

It was the Gophers' third Big Ten Championships title in the past six years; now they want to show the rest of the country what they can do.

"We always try to keep an eye forward at NCAAs," Spencer said. "This is just kind of a cherry on top."

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