COLUMBUS, Ohio – Everybody just have a seat and relax for a moment. Take a deep breath. Something has just happened on the campus of Ohio State University that will make believers out of anyone who doesn’t believe that dreams do come true.
Ohio State is the 2010 Big Ten swimming and diving champion! Saturday before a raucous and packed McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion crowd, the Buckeyes of swimming coach Bill Wadley and diving coach Vince Panzano captured their first Big Ten championship in 54 years with a stunning and winning total of 860.50 points. Two-time defending champion Michigan was runner-up with 715.50 points with Minnesota third with 497.
“I wanted the team to have an open mind about this championship because it is possible to surpass what others think,” Wadley, named the 2010 Big Ten Coach of the Year, said at the beginning of the meet. “I told the guys to have a better day than they ever dreamed is possible.”
The year was 1956 and the great Mike Peppe was Ohio State’s coach when the Scarlet and Gray last hoisted a Big Ten championship trophy in swimming and diving. That win ended a glorious run of Big Ten – 12 total – and NCAA championships – 11 – for the Peppe-coached Buckeyes and the team has been fighting for a crown since. Not any more.
The marvelous – and now magical – McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion gave the Ohio State coaches an incredible foundation for recruiting. And since the facility opened five years ago, the two have brought in not only talented athletes, but remarkable students – the team GPA last year was the best in the nation among all public schools – and selfless young men who this week swam and dove for something much greater than themselves. They competed for their teammates. They competed for their coaches and their parents. They competed with desire and they competed with warrior spirit. And, they competed for the pride of Ohio State University.
And, oh my, how they competed…in waves! Ohio State led all schools Saturday and for the meet with 16 more individuals in either a finals or consolation finals, increasing the number to 47 individual event scorers with 33 of those scorers competing in a final.
Saturday Ohio State placed 10 in the finals. Fueled by adrenalin and their teammates and the rush of being on the cusp of a championship – because they didn’t get much sleep last night; how can one sleep when living a dream anyway? – the team performed magnificently…again.
Senior Stefan Sigrist opened the meet with goose-bump inducing and record smashing performance in the 1650 freestyle, winning in an NCAA “A” time of 14:50.46 that bested both his own school record and the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion mark. Brent Hitchcock, Mark Nieman and George Markovic were fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, for a 62-point event to get things started and increase Ohio State’s lead to 98 points, 654.50-556.50.
Big Ten 100 backstroke champ Andrew Elliott followed with a school record of 1:42.92 to take third in the 200 back. Itai Chammah was eighth and Phil Seleskie and Markus Sievers finished ninth and 12th, respectively.
Co-captain Joel Elber went 44.0 to place fifth in the 100 freestyle with Tim Phillips ninth and Andrew Olson 14th. The 26 points they earned kept the Buckeye lead safe at 76 points and pushed them over the 700-point mark for the first time in school history.
Junior Elliott Keefer, who already won the 100 breaststroke championship Friday, led the entire way before just getting edged to finish second in the 200 breaststroke. His time of 1:54.13 broke the school record by more than a second and it also went under the NCAA “A” standard. Sam Pelkey was third and Daniel Malnik was seventh for a triple treat final. Justin Farra also scored, finishing 10th.
Ohio State placed another trio of finalists in the 200 butterfly. Niksa Roki, Quincy Lee and Luke Stirton combined for 38 points with fifth, sixth and eighth-place finishes. Roki set a new school record with his time of 1:45.43. And so heading into the diving competition, Ohio State had its Big Ten title clinched with a commanding 136-point lead.
On the platform diving event, senior Wes Wieser finished second to bank 17 more team points. The total gave Panzano’s divers 101 points toward the team’s championship score.
It should be noted that Ryan Jefferson tried to score platform points. The senior exercise science/pre-med major had not dove off the platform – he chose to dive off the five -meter tower – in several years, but he wanted to try and contribute points – any points – to help the Buckeyes’ cause. He didn’t have to dive, but he did it anyway, for the team. And it didn’t matter that he didn’t score. Because the fact he tried was a reflection of the effort and the spirit that enveloped this team and enabled Ohio State to win the 2010 championship.
The 400 freestyle relay team capped the evening by taking third in a time of 2:54.65, yet another school record for Ohio State, it’s fifth of the evening and 15th of the meet. Taking what turned out to be victory laps for the Buckeyes was the team of Elber, Lincoln Fahrbach, Phillips and Olson.
“What has been really special about this meet is we have a great, great group of guys who were clearly competing for each other,” Wadley said. “And it gave the guys a great feeling about what they were doing and who they were doing it with.
“There’s a saying that a man who stands alone on top of the mountain is alone. But when you are on top of that mountain with friends, then you are celebrating with friends.”
Let the party begin.
Meet Notes and other Random Thoughts…
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Men’s Big Ten Conference
Swimming and Diving Championships
Friday, Feb. 27, 2010
McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion
Final Team Standings: 1. Ohio State 860.50; 2. Michigan 715.50; 3. Minnesota 497; 4. Purdue 417; 5. Indiana 283; 6. Iowa 223; 7. Penn State 219; 8. Wisconsin 217; 9. Michigan State 205; 10. Northwestern 169.
Saturday Results: 1650 freestyle – 1. Stefan Sigrist, OSU (14:50.46); 200 backstroke – 1. Clary, MICH (1:40.18); 3. Andrew Elliott, OSU (1:42.92); 100 freestyle – 1. Richards, MINN (43.29); 5. Joel Elber, OSU (44.0); 200 breaststroke – 1. Opell, IND (1:54.00); 2. Keefer, OSU (1:54.13); 200 butterfly – 1. Madwed, MICH (1:42.11); 5. Niksa Roka, OSU (1:45.43); 10-meter platform – 1. Boudia, PUR (527.60); 2. Wes Wieser, OSU (473.85) 400 free relay – 1 MICH (2:53.19); 3. Elber, Phillips, Fahrbach, Olson, OSU (2:54.65).