Gophers fully aware of what is riding on Big Ten championshipsFebruary 25, 2009Jump to CommentsShare on FacebookShare on TwitterShare via EmailPrintFor the University of Minnesota menâÄôs swimming coach Dennis Dale , there is no underselling the importance of the Big Ten championships to his team. âÄúThe chips are riding on this meet,âÄù Dale said. âÄúThis is the last time you can let it ride, and this determines whether our season was a success or not.âÄù Dale âÄî one of only two active coaches to earn a conference crown along with IndianaâÄôs Ray Looze âÄî will bring his 11th-ranked Gophers to PurdueâÄôs Boilermaker Aquatic Complex on Thursday âÄî the first of three days the team will compete for the Big Ten title. Starting the competition off on a positive note will be an important factor, according to senior Josh Griffey . âÄúIt all starts on that first day. If we have a couple guys get out and go fast in the beginning, itâÄôs just going to spread like wildfire,âÄù Griffey said. The former transfer from Rutgers posted career-best times in three events at last yearâÄôs Big Tens, where Griffey said the talent level drives everyone to excel. âÄúThe level of competition is unprecedented,âÄù Griffey said. âÄúItâÄôs the hardest meet IâÄôve ever swam at in my life.âÄù The competition will be there again this year and leaving West Lafayette with a conference title might be more difficult for Minnesota than in previous years. âÄúWe know that weâÄôre probably not going to win. I think weâÄôve accepted that already,âÄù senior Colin Lee-To , the top-ranked swimmer in the 100 breaststroke, said. âÄúWeâÄôre just hoping for the best finish we can.âÄù Even Dale realizes that trumping No. 4 Michigan might be too tough a task for his team or any other program in the Big Ten. âÄúWeâÄôre all pretty close. Whoever is performing better in those three days has a chance to grab second to Michigan,âÄù Dale said. âÄúIf Michigan falters, maybe weâÄôll have the chance to win.âÄù For the Gophers, history is on the line as the team hasnâÄôt finished below third in the event since 1989. âÄúOur main goal this year is to get second,âÄù Lee-To said. Minnesota won the Big Ten championships the last time Purdue hosted the event in 2004. Even if the Gophers are not favored to win coming into the championship, bigger upsets have happened, and Monday Dale said the Gophers season is on the line and in the teamâÄôs hands. âÄúIf youâÄôve had a great season up to the Big TenâÄôs, and you donâÄôt perform at the Big TenâÄôs, youâÄôve had a bad season,âÄù Dale said. âÄúThis is what determines the success and failure of our season.âÄù âÄîBrian Johnson contributed to this story.