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IU men’s swimming and diving finishes third in Big Ten Championships



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Junior Gary Kostbade competes in the 200-meter breaststroke event Feb. 29 at Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatics Center. IU placed third overall at the Big Ten Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships. Joy Burton

For the first time since 2017, the Big Ten men’s swimming and diving champions were not wearing cream and crimson Saturday night. It was the 41st conference championship for Michigan.

Ohio State ultimately edged out IU for second. Michigan finished with 1,548 points, Ohio State scored 1,329 and IU had 1,321.5. Michigan also beat IU in 2016, the last time the Hoosiers didn't win the conference.

The Hoosiers were in third for the majority of the meet. They closely trailed behind Ohio State by less than 10 points after Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. 

IU rallied on Saturday with the 100 freestyle, where IU had three swimmers in the top four. Junior Bruno Blaskovic led the way at 41.88 seconds, the second-best time in the country and an NCAA A-cut time. But a strong Saturday wasn’t enough to overcome the Wolverines and the Buckeyes.

Blaskovic was named the 2020 Big Ten Swimmer of the championships, winning six gold medals and one silver. 

“It’s a great honor, of course,” Blaskovic said. “A lot of credit to the coaching staff, the trainers and the fans. This is our house. I hope we made you guys proud.”

Along with Blaskovic, sophomore Zane Backes and junior Gabriel Fantoni set A-cut times to qualify for the NCAA championships in the 100 breaststroke and 100 backstroke, respectively. 

“Obviously, this isn’t the result as a team we were looking for,” IU head coach Ray Looze said. “But individually, I’m really proud of all of our guys. A lot of them set fantastic times going into the NCAAs.”

Coach Looze was particularly impressed with his relay teams, which all finished with A-cut times in their respective races over the week. 

“They carried us,” Looze said. “They’ve been near the top all season, and those wins racked up a lot of points for us.” 

Blaskovic, Fantoni, Backes and freshman Brendan Burns opened up the competition Wednesday in the 200 medley relay, with a 1:23.07, a pool record and the top time in the country this season. 

The same four also set a pool record in the 400 medley relay, with a 3:02.27, which is the third-best time in the country this season.

To close out the event, the Hoosiers picked up their fifth straight Big Ten championship in the 400 freestyle relay, posting a 2:48.43. Blaskovic said the IU 400 free team is invincible after the race in an interview after the race with Big Ten Network. 

“We’ve not lost this event in years,” Blaskovic told Big Ten Network. “And there’s years to come when that we’re not going to lose it.”

IU racked up 17 medals in the championships: nine gold, three silver and five bronze. Eight Hoosier swimmers were named to the All-Big Ten First Team: Backes, Blaskovic, Fantoni, Burns, senior Mohamed Samy and sophomores Jack Franzaman, Brandon Hamblin and Van Mathias.

IU now looks ahead to the NCAA Championships from March 25-28 in Indianapolis. The Hoosiers accumulated ten NCAA A-cut times over the course of the championships, which means all of the swimmers with those times will automatically qualify for the national championships. The full list of participants in the championships will be determined in the next couple of weeks.

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