COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State and Michigan continue to battle in the pool for the Big Ten championship and the two teams will head into the final day Saturday with 80 points separating the two and a conference title on the line.

Ohio State leads this championship. The Buckeyes have 592.50 points heading into Saturday with Michigan second with 512.50 points. No other team is within 190 points of these two leaders. Minnesota is third with 321 points and is followed by Purdue (262) and Indian (193) in the Top 5.

Michigan won this meet by dominant margins the past two years: 300 points last year and by more than 200 points two years ago. With a load of points scorers back, including four swimmers who combined for six Big Ten titles in 2009, the Wolverines came in as favorites, perhaps heavy favorites.

But Ohio State coach Bill Wadley told his team to have no preconceived notions about how others think this meet will turn out. And so far, the team has been notion-less.

Today, just like Thursday, Ohio State qualified the most swimmers and divers into the finals and consolation final races – the points producing events – with 23, including 16 finalists. Michigan was second with 17 and 11, respectively.

“Our objective is to get into the finals,” Ohio State coach Bill Wadley said. “There is no holding back. How can we? We haven’t beaten Michigan since the 1950s. Today we did all we could do to get the people in the finals who we wanted to get in finals.”

And the Buckeyes produced. While Michigan increased its individual championship total to seven at this meet with three more titles Friday, Ohio State responded with three championships of its own to offset the Wolverine charge.

Joel Elber, Lincoln Fahrbach, Andrew Olson and Tim Phillips roared to a meet-opening win in the 200 freestyle relay in a school record time of 1:18.30. Minnesota, led by Big Ten 50 free champ Michael Richards, led the entire race with Ohio State second and Michigan third. Olson closed some of the gap on his third leg with a 19.41 time and then Phillips went 19.42 for the win. Fahrbach went 19.43 to give the Buckeyes three sub-19.50 swims.

Michigan had the numbers in its favor the first half of the meet Friday night, though, and it used that advantage to build a 45-point lead over the Buckeyes after the third individual event, the 200 freestyle. Dan Madwed’s win was the third consecutive for Michigan, but Ohio State had scored enough points to stay within striking distance. Here’s how:

  • Austin Mudd and Justin Farra were fifth and sixth in the 400 individual medley with Mudd swimming a 3:48.93 time. Phil Seleskie and Niksa Roki were 10th and 14th, respectively, for a total of 36 points.
  • Tim Phillips was runner-up in the 100 butterfly in a fast, 46.99, with Quincy Lee fifth. Andrew Bretscher and Luke Stirton also scored and the Buckeyes were able to counter 51 Michigan points with 48 of their own.
  • George Markovic (third in 1:35.26), Olson (sixth) and Stephen Sakaris (ninth) accounted for 37 points in the 200 free with Sakaris’ effort particularly important as his consolation final win (actually a tie) outdistanced two UM swimmers who were also in the heat.

The Buckeyes started their comeback in the 100 breaststroke. Elliott Keefer cruised to a school-record time of 53.23 to win the Big Ten title with Sam Pelkey second and Daniel Malnik fourth. The effort helped the Buckeyes to a 52-20 advantage in points over Michigan and brought the home team to within three, 491.5-488.5.

Andrew Elliott  and the 100 backstroke team duplicated-and-more the breaststroke team’s effort. Elliott swam to a school record time of 46.01 for the win with Itai Chammah third, Markus Sievers seventh and Elber ninth for a 56-point final swimming event of the evening.

Coach Vince Panzano’s divers – three seniors competing in their last Big Ten championships – are well aware of what’s happening in the other pool and they knew their diving can help make a difference.

“We know we have a chance and we are trying our best to do our part,” Ryan Jefferson said. “The more points we can score on the boards the better chance we have.”

And so far, the divers have scored. Big. After adding 38 points to the team point total Thursday off the 1-meter springboard, Wes Wieser, Burkley Showe and Jefferson added another 46 points Friday with three more finals finishes on 3-meter. Wieser was second with 386.40 points with Showe fourth and Jefferson fifth.

And now the Ohio State Buckeyes will hit the sack tonight with a lead at the Big Ten Conference championships and one day to go. Rest well, fellas.

Meet Notes and other Random Thoughts…

  • Coach Bill Wadley said Quincy Lee, a junior from Portland, Ore., deserved special mention for his performance in the 100 butterfly prelims. “Quincy has gone from swimming in the high 47s in this event to a 46.79 time today that is right at the school record,” Wadley said. “And he made finals!” This special mention should become a case study for expert training that lowers times in a big way.
  • Props I: to the Dept. of Athletics event management staff headed by Assoc. AD Mike Penner and Big Ten Championships Meet Director Ericka Hoon. From shuttle service to television production assistance to event timing and logistics to the bins of fruit and granola and bagels at each team’s bench and tasty cold chocolate milk for the student-athletes, this event has been run in nothing short of a first-class manner.
  • McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion Director of Aquatics Christine Thompson and the effort of her staff has been remarkable as well. Need a table? Done. No power strip? Here. “How else can we help?”
  • Props II: to creative services graphic designer Andy DeVito, who continuously produces eye-catching and eye-popping graphics for Ohio State’s sports, including the new scarlet banners that ring the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion pool deck displaying the profound accomplishments – All-Americans, Champions, Olympians – of the school’s proud men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs and synchronized swimming.
  • There can’t be too many facilities in the country that can boast of an aquatics heritage like Ohio State’s 37 national team championships, 100s of All-Americans and nearly 50 Olympians in swimming, diving and synchro.
  • And this is an absolutely positively true statement: there is not a school in the world that wants to add to its 17 Big Ten Conference swimming and diving team championships (men and women combined) more than Ohio State.

* * * * *

Men’s Big Ten Conference 

Swimming and Diving Championships

Friday, Feb. 26, 2010

Columbus, Ohio

McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion

Day 3 Team Standings:

1. Ohio State 592.50; 2. Michigan 512.50; 3. Minnesota 321; 4. Purdue 262; 5. Indiana 193; 6. Michigan State 155; 7. Penn State 153; 8. Wisconsin 150; 9. Iowa 149; 10. Northwestern 120.

Results: 200 freestyle relay – 1. Elber, Fahrbach, Olson, Phillips, OSU (1:18.30); 400 individual medley – 1. Clary, MICH (3:40.27); 5. Mudd, OSU (3:48.93); 100 butterfly – 1. Brady, MICH (45.92); 5. Lee, OSU, (47.35); 200 freestyle – 1. Madwed, MICH (1:34.57); 3. Markovic, OSU (1:35.26); 100 breaststroke – 1. Keefer, OSU (53.29); 100 backstroke – 1. Elliott, OSU (46.54); 3-meter diving – 1. Boudia, PUR (425.70); 2. Wieser, OSU (386.40).