More than nine years have passed since my time as a secondary contact for Golden Gopher swimming as a graduate student at the University of Minnesota. Yet, I still find myself nostalgic about covering the sport that began this season with a bang on Saturday.
Many unknowns factor into the start of a season, though it did not take long for Minnesota to find their stroke, easily defeating visiting Arizona State 190-95. The Maroon and Gold took first place in all but one event, dominating the anticipated season opener.
Looking back on a fourth place finish at the Big Ten championships last season, Minnesota hopes this year brings their first conference title since 2003. The Gophers will need to utilize all their weapons throughout the season to achieve that goal — after all, defending National Champion and conference foe Michigan stands in the way.
The road to a conference title begins with co-captains, senior (and Madison steal) Derek Toomey and junior Luke Bushman. Toomey touched the wall first in his signature event, the 50 freestyle in an 2013 NCAA B-cut time of 19:99. Last season he earned the nation’s third fastest time in this event. Former teammate Michael Richards holds the Big ten record in the 50 free at 19:05.
True freshman Daryl Turner earned four first place finishes including an 2013 NCAA B-cut qualifying time of 48:43 in the 100 backstroke. The Colorado native set the pace for Minnesota’s top finish in the 200 freestyle relay alongside Tommey. Fellow freshman and Austrian native Jakub Maly made his debut by capturing first place in the 200 individual medley clocking a time of 1:50:97, shattering his previous best of 2:01:92. Turner and Maly came to Minnesota as nationally placed Top 25 recruits.
Additionally, the hosting Gophers took the top three finishes in three-meter diving lead by sophomore Manny Pollard (370.65). Teammates Dylan Zoe and Erik Larson also broke a score of 300, a barrier Arizona State divers could not overcome.
Next Saturday, the Golden Gophers host the Florida Gators at 11 a.m. CT.