Jan. 28, 2012
EVANSTON, Ill. -- In a meet that came down to the final session, the final race and literally just one-hundredth of a second, Northwestern (7-3) defeated No. 25 Missouri, 188-180, and Denver, 212-156, to sweep a two-day, three-session double dual meet at the Norris Aquatics Center.
Saturday started with the 200 medley relay to kick off the first of the day's two sessions. Northwestern's team of Domink Cubelic (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South), Uula Auren (Helsinki, Finland/Mäkelänrinteen Lukio), Jake Grosser (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles East) and Matthew Margritier (Leawood, Kan./Rockhurst) pulled away early with strong swims from Cubelic and Auren to cruise to a 1:30.11 time and a .65 of a second margin of victory. The win pulled NU to within four points, 65-61, of top-25 Missouri after ending Friday just nine points behind the Tigers.
Junior Charlie Rimkus (Tustin, Calif./Beckman) won the 400 IM over a trio of Denver swimmers behind him. Rimkus led through the first three strokes before the Pioneers' Tyler Pennington hit the gas and overtook Rimkus entering the final 50. At the final turn, Rimkus responded with a kick of his own to turn in a 3:57.23 and beat Pennington by .31 of a second. Freshman Andrew Seitz (Pleasanton, Calif./Amador Valley) was eighth overall as NU's next-best finisher in a season-best 4:10.23.
Grosser and freshman Mark Ferguson (Perth, Australia/John XXIII) finished behind a Missouri entry and two Denver swimmers in the 100 fly, with Grosser putting up a fourth-place time of 50.42 and Ferguson turning in a fifth-place 50.88.
Senior John Frutiger
(Alma, Mich./Alma) pulled away from the field for an impressive win in the 200 free, swimming a 1:39.59 to win by nearly two full seconds. Sophomore Chase Stephens
(Madison, Wis./Edgewood) placed a strong third after winning the second heat in 1:41.89 while junior Jan Hanulik
(Cavisov, Czech Republic/Sportovni Gymnazium) came in sixth overall in 1:43.07.
For the first time in his collegiate career, Auren suffered a defeat in the 100 breast when his frantic comeback in the final 25 yards fell .11 of a second short to Missouri's Igor Kozlovskij. Auren swam a 55.88 to take second place as NU's lone finisher among the top eight.
Northwestern claimed three of the top five spots in the 100 back to earn solid points in the meet. Denver's Kyle Milberg won the event after a 25.01 final 50 split to out-touch Cubelic's 49.43 by .26 of a second. Ferguson was right behind Cubelic in third with a 50.50 while junior Varun Shivakumar (Hoffman Estates, Ill./Fremd) took fifth in 51.65.
The Wildcats closed the opening session Saturday with an exciting 800 free relay. NU head coach Jarod Schroeder co-mingled his `A' and `B' relays shooting for a 1-2 finish, leading to razor-thin finishes in the race for first and the race for third overall. NU's top team ended up being Rimkus, Tony Mattar (Lake Orion, Mich./Lake Orion), Cubelic and Ferguson with a time of 6:44.65, which placed second to Missouri by just .20 of a second.
Northwestern's other team of Stephens, Margritier, Alexander Ratajczyk (Parlin, N.J./Sayreville War Memorial) and Frutiger were even closer to third, swimming a 6:47.09 to come in just .11 of a second behind Denver. Frutiger entered the water nearly 3.5 seconds behind the top-three pack, then swam a 1:38.67 split to pull NU all the way back to a near-third place finish.
Between sessions, the divers took to the air from the 3-meter springboard. Sophomore Tanner Nemkov (Littleton, Colo./Heritage) was NU's top finisher with a third-place score of 293.40 and classmate Nick Pinkerton (Hudson, Ohio/Hudson) followed in fourth place with a 278.90 tally.
With Northwestern down six points to No. 25 Missouri entering the third and final session Saturday night, Rimkus quickly cut that deficit down to one point with a nearly six-second win in a season-best 1,650 free time of 15:40.40. Also picking up points for the Wildcats in the event were Frutiger with an eighth-place overall 16:29.00 and Seitz with a ninth-place 16:47.95.
Denver went 1-2 in the 200 back, but Northwestern pulled into the lead against Missouri when Shivakumar out-touched a Missouri swimmer for third place overall in a time of 1:50.27. Behind a Tiger in fourth, Ferguson (1:51.49) and Cubelic (1:51.63) gained big points for the Wildcats as the fifth- and sixth-place finishers, respectively.
Northwestern earned four of the top six spots in the 100 free behind a first-place Missouri swimmer. Stephens was the top 'Cat with a second-place and season-best 45.49 followed by Ratajczyk in third in 46.18. Margritier captured fifth place in 46.32 while Grosser was sixth in 46.61.
In a head-to-head battle of elite breaststrokers, Missouri's Kozlovskij again got the best of Auren to the tune of a 2:01.42 against Auren's season-best time of 2:01.92. Damaging for the Wildcats was the fact that Missouri's top swimmer from the first heat of the two-heat event had a 2:01.88, pushing Auren to third place overall.
The 200 fly proved to be an incredible final individual race between Rimkus and Missouri's Neil O'Halloran. Needing the victory for the Wildcats, Rimkus trailed by .81 of a second entering the final 50 yards. The junior turned it on in a big way in his final home meet of the season, out-touching O'Halloran at the wall by .04 of a second to win in 1:49.14. Mattar contributed a fifth-place overall time of 1:51.50 to the Wildcats' cause.
Rimkus' win -- just as his 1,650 victory did earlier in the session -- pulled Northwestern within one point of Missouri, setting the stage for a winner-take-all final 400 free relay.
With the entire pool on its feet and a roar as the swimmers left the blocks, Stephens and Missouri's Kozlovskij finished the opening leg in a near dead heat. Freshman Margritier then gave the Wildcats a commanding .90 of a second advantage before Cubelic held serve to end his swim with a .78 of a second edge. Following on the heels of his near heroic final split in the 800 free relay earlier in the day, Frutiger entered the pool against the Tigers' Ramom Melo, who was a man on a mission.
Swimming side-by-side in lanes two and three, the pair thrashed to the wall where Frutiger touched out Melo by the slimmest of possible margins to give Northwestern a season-best and NCAA consideration time of 2:59.62 against Missouri's 2:59.63. With the final touch unseen by the crowd amid the foam and splash of the competitors, there was a brief moment of silence before an explosion of cheering when the result hit the scoreboard to cap the final race of the 2011-12 regular season home schedule.
With its regular season schedule complete, Northwestern now begins its final training for the February 22-25 Big Ten Championships in Iowa City, Iowa.
Be the first to know what's going on with the 'Cats -- Follow @NU_Sports on Twitter, become a fan of Northwestern Athletics on Facebook! and subscribe to the NU Sports Express e-newsletter to receive the latest news, schedule updates and video and to interact with NU. For more information on following specific Northwestern teams online, visit our Social Media page!