Freshmen pair earn first legs

Freshmen Rachel Munson and Zoe Avestruv open up the medley relays.

by Thomas Jaakola

The Gophers are using a rookie one-two punch to get ahead in medley relays.
Freshmen Zoe Avestruz and Rachel Munson have swum the first two legs of Minnesota’s medley relays this year and consistently provided points for the team.
“They’ve both really had nice first years with us,” head coach Kelly Kremer said. “It’s kind of exciting to have such a young front-half of our medley relays right now. They’ve contributed a ton to this point, and I think they’ve [gotten] more and more comfortable being in the role that they’re in.”
Munson broke the Wisconsin state record in three different events in her high school days, while Avestruz was named the 2015 Minnesota High School State Female of the Year in Minnesota. Now, the two are huge parts of the team as they prepare for the Big Ten Championships, which kick off Feb. 17.
Both Avestruz and Munson got their first collegiate competition opportunity against Florida State on Oct. 3 when they helped the 200 medley relay team clinch a first-place finish with a time of 1:42.32.
Munson took no time to demonstrate her individual abilities. The freshman won her first event in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:02.87, and she kept her hot start going with a second victory in the 200 breaststroke, finishing the race in 2:20.27 at the meet.
“It’s definitely intimidating competing against tons of really great swimmers at this level, but it’s a great challenge,” Munson said. “It keeps me motivated and allows me to look into my own future as a more experienced college swimmer to set goals for myself further down the road.”
Avestruz got her career started with a first-place finish, too, by winning the 100 backstroke in a time of 56.37 and capped her first meet by taking second in the 100 freestyle in 52.20.
“In the pool, age doesn’t matter — it’s all about who can go the fastest and get to the wall first,” Avestruz said. “It’s all been a learning experience, so I’m happy with the races I’ve done well in, and I’ve learned from the ones I haven’t done as well in.”
Both athletes stepped up their games even more at last weekend’s Big Ten Triple Dual.
The two teamed up again to start the team off with a winning 200 medley relay time of 1:41.64. Munson finished in second place in the 100 breaststroke and set a season-best time of 1:01:96. Avestruz picked up a second-place finish of her own with a time of 55.41 in the 100 backstroke, which was nearly a second faster than the time she
posted at the start of the year.
Avestruz said she wants to be in the top four or higher in her events at the Big Ten Championships, while also helping the relays to the highest place possible. She added that her main goal is to help the team win the Big Ten title for the fifth consecutive year.
“I want to represent the Gophers in the most positive way possible and do anything I can to motivate our team to reach our fullest potential,” Avestruz said.
With so much success in their past already, the duo are no strangers to racing under the most pressure-packed moments, Kremer said. Their next race will be their biggest yet.
“They’re in their first year at Minnesota, but they’ve been at big meets in their past,” Kremer said. “They’re proven to be really elite big-meet swimmers.”