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Men's Swimming Aims for Highest Finish in School History

Big Ten championships begin Thursday.

Feb. 24, 1998

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A year ago, the Purdue men's swimming and diving team posted its highest finish in school history at the Big Ten Championships. This year the Boilermakers are looking to eclipse last year's fourth-place finish when the Big Ten Championships begin Feb. 26. No. 21 Purdue owns a 12-1 dual meet record, including a 5-1 conference record, heading into the meet.

Purdue has beaten four ranked teams this season, No. 18 Harvard, No. 16 Nebraska and No. 13 Miami. They also defeated then-No. 25 Indiana 124.5-118.5 on Feb. 7. In their quest for the best finish in school history, the Boilers will be competing with Indiana, who finished third last year at Big Ten's, as well as Ohio State and Penn State. "We'll be in a battle for the third and fourth spot with those guys," head coach Dan Ross said.

As he has all season, junior All-American Vilmos Kovacs will lead the Boilermakers. Kovacs is a two-time defending Big Ten Champion in the 200 breaststroke and the 1997 Champion in the 100 breaststroke. He also swam with last year's Big Ten Champion 400 medley relay team, the first relay team to win a conference title in school history. Kovacs will also swim either the 200 or 400 individual medley. Seniors Mike Ullom, Ross Croasdell and Frank Smardo all have had solid seasons and should contribute significantly for the Boilermakers. Ullom was the anchor of last year's Champion 400 medley relay team and owns Purdue's top time this year in the 100 freestyle (45.28). Croasdell carries the team's top time in the 500 freestyle (4:34.43) into the meet and swims with the 400 and 800 freestyle relays. Smardo is the defending Big Ten Champion in the 50 freestyle and owns the team's top time in that event again this year (20.73).

In addition, juniors Kirk Larsen and Dan Kleber, and freshman Matt Martin also have good chances of scoring at the meet. Larsen holds the top time in the 200 freestyle (1:39.62) and swims on the 200, 400, and 800 freestyle relays. Kleber owns the top times in the 100 and 200 butterfly and swims with the 400 medley and 800 freestyle relays. Martin is the Boilermakers fastest swimmer in the 1000 and 1650 freestyle and has the second fastest time in the 500 freestyle. Sophomore diver Brandon Gustafson reached the finals of platform diving last year, placing sixth overall. He ranks first on the season-best charts off both the 1- and 3-meter boards. "Our kids are all on the same page and ready to compete," Ross added. The Big Ten Championships start Thursday, with the prelims at 1:00 p.m. The finals will begin at 8:00 p.m. each night. All times are EST.