Women’s swimmers set ambitious new goals

by Ryan Schuster

Women’s swimming coach Jean Freeman sat down this week with her team and made some goals for the rest of the season. All athletes wrote down their own expectations as well.
The team expressed more ambitious goals this week than before the season started, because the team is exceeding expectations.
The No. 11 Gophers are undefeated at 5-0 with victories over No. 12 North Carolina, No. 14 Nebraska, No. 23 Wisconsin, No. 24 Penn State, unranked Iowa State and a host of other Division I, II and III teams at the Minnesota Invitational.
The team’s ranking is expected to improve even more next week, as Minnesota actually dropped a place in the latest Speedo America top 25 coaches poll. The Gophers fell because the voters didn’t receive results from Minnesota’s victories over Nebraska and at the Minnesota Invitational.
Last year Minnesota finished third in the Big Ten behind Michigan and Wisconsin and was 15th at the NCAA championships, their second-best national finish ever. The 1991-92 team took 10th at the NCAA meet.
No. 3 Michigan is the only Big Ten school ranked ahead of Minnesota, while No. 15 Northwestern, No. 22 Illinois, No. 23 Wisconsin and No. 24 Penn State give chase.
Before this season, Freeman predicted the Gophers would finish in the top three in the conference. She has since changed her tune after seeing Northwestern turn in several uninspired performances this year.
“I say we can be in the top two now,” Freeman said. “I think it’s between Michigan and Minnesota. Northwestern hasn’t shown what they can do yet.”
After being ranked 15th in the preseason coach’s poll, the Gophers have improved steadily throughout their early season meets and have not yet had a close meet this season.
Minnesota travels to Hawaii on Dec. 16-24 for their winter training trip, where the team will swim against Hawaii in a dual meet on Dec. 20.
“The whole purpose is to train,” Freeman said. “It’s definitely (going to be) a change of scenery and a wonderful experience. We need to go back to the drawing board.”

Note: The team’s divers will stay in Minnesota and train at the Aquatic Center in diving coach Kongzheng Li’s absence. Li will be in Japan conducting a diving clinic Dec. 21-26.