WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue men's swimming and diving begins the championship portion of its season this week, making the short trip south to Indiana University for the Big Ten Championships beginning Wednesday evening and running through Saturday.
Action gets underway Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. with the 200 medley and 800 free relays as well as an exhibition round of synchronized 3-meter diving. Preliminary rounds are set for the afternoon sessions and begin at 11 a.m. Relays are contested, Big Ten champions determined and team points earned in the evening finals, which begin nightly at 6:30 p.m.
The Big Ten Network will televise highlights of the Saturday evening session via tape delay on Saturday, March 9 at 10 a.m. Indiana will be offering free live video of the first five sessions from Wednesday through Friday at Hoosier All-Access.
Indiana is hosting the Big Ten Championships for the first time since 2006. Michigan is the two-time defending conference champion, also winning four of the last five titles and a league-high 36 total. The Wolverines are set to host the 2014 Big Ten Championships in Ann Arbor.
The Big Ten is one of the few conferences that continue to hold their men's and women's championship meets separate from each other. The women's meet was last week in snowy Minneapolis.
The Big Ten is always one of the top swimming and diving conferences in the country and the championship meet is hotly contested. This season the 10-team field will feature six schools (Michigan, Indiana, Ohio State, Minnesota, Iowa and Penn State) ranked among the latest CSCAA Top 25 poll. Purdue has also been ranked at times this season. Wisconsin is currently among the teams also receiving votes.
Besides the years Purdue gets to host at the Boilermaker Aquatic Center, Bloomington is the second-best host site from the Boilers' point of view. With Illinois no longer sponsoring a men's swimming and diving program, this year represents the shortest possible road trip for Big Tens. Plus, with Diving Zones at the Boilermaker Aquatic and the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis next month, the amount of travel on the itinerary for the championship portion of the season might be at an all-time low this year.
Head coach Dan Ross estimated that probably only two or three members of the Purdue travel roster have not competed at IU's Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatics Center at some point in their swimming or diving careers. The Boilermakers competed in a dual meet at Indiana in 2010 and 2012. The Hoosiers also hosted the Zone C Diving Championships a year ago.
Purdue finished fourth at Big Tens in 2009 and 2010, matching the program's best-ever showing. The Boilermakers settled for seventh place last season. The 200 freestyle relay team broke the school record and earned a berth at the NCAA Championships with its time-trial performance at Big Tens a year ago. Matt Friede, Danny Tucker and Ben Ziolkowski are all back from that foursome. Chuck Destro took the spot of the graduated Ben Wachtel and Purdue has remained one of the top sprint relay teams in the conference.
For much of the school year, Purdue has trained and prepared specifically for the championship segment of the season, highlighted by the Big Tens this week and the NCAA Championships (March 28-30). The Boilermakers' top performers will look to improve their NCAA prospects this week and have specifically tapered their training in an effort to maximize season-best times and scores.
Performing well individually in morning preliminaries and as relay foursomes at night ultimately has the greatest impact on team success. Individuals score points by qualifying for the A and B finals in the evening sessions after posting top 16 times in the prelims.
Andrew Langenfeld, who won the 50 free in 2009, is Purdue's most recent Big Ten champion in the swimming events. David Boudia won eight Big Ten diving titles while representing the Boilers in the diving events from 2009-11.
Purdue is expected to enter a group of five divers, four of whom are now veterans of the Big Ten Championships meet. Alec Back, Jamie Bissett, Nate Cox and Sean Mokhtari each competed at Big Tens for the first time a year ago. Back and Bissett scored team points in all three diving disciplines at Big Tens. Cox won the 1-meter at the prestigious six-team Classic @ SMU in January of this season and has improved in all three events. Mokhtari won both platform competitions contested at the Boilermaker Aquatic Center this season and finished less than a point away from earning a berth to the NCAA at the 2012 Zones meet in Bloomington. The addition of freshman Layne Rogers has provided even more depth in the springboard events. Bissett and Rogers share the team lead among the divers with five individual victories each this year.
Jan Petric (500 free) and Lyam Dias (200 IM) both posted new Purdue freshman records at the 2012 Big Ten Championships in Iowa City. Dias did so while winning the B final of the 200 IM. Tucker also won the B final of the 100 free a year ago. Eduard Galdeano (200 fly), Brian Kiel (100 & 200 back) and Friede (50 free & 100 free) established new Purdue freshman records at the 2011 Big Ten meet in Minneapolis.
Bissett, Dias, Friede, Kiel, Petric and Tucker are among the active Boilers that have qualified for an A final at Big Tens during their careers. Dias and Tucker won individual events at IU's pool at the January 2012 dual meet against the Hoosiers that was televised live by the Big Ten Network.
The Boilermakers competed head-to-head against six of the other nine Big Ten schools that sponsor men's swimming and diving earlier this season. Iowa, Ohio State and Penn State were the only conference rivals not on the regular-season schedule. However, the divers did compete against the Buckeyes at the Ohio State Invitational in December.