Gophers in a familiar place after NCAAs

Despite doubling its team score, Minnesota finished in the same place as last year.

After sending a school record 12 athletes to the NCAA swimming championships, Minnesota wound up in the same spot as they did last year.

The Gophers finished 13th, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of their performance.

“Looking at the results it’s the same situation, but we almost doubled our points from last year,” junior Jenny Shaughnessy said.

Minnesota scored 59 points last year and improved that mark to 96 in one of the most competitive championship meets in history.

“If you had told me scoring 96 points wouldn’t have put us in the top 10, I wouldn’t have believed it,” co-head coach Kelly Kremer said. “We’re certainly headed in the right direction.”

Freshman Jillian Tyler continued her stellar season as she placed second in the 100 yard breaststroke and finished seventh in the 200 breaststroke.

Tyler became the first Gophers swimmer to earn first team All-American honors since Gretchen Hegener did so in 1998.

“Jill was absolutely impressive,” senior Roxane Akradi said.

Akradi was the only senior for the Gophers and admitted that the realization that her college career has ended hasn’t fully set in yet.

“It was kind of surreal when I touched the wall,” Akradi said. “I don’t know if I fully believe it, but it’s cool to end with a school record.”

Akradi capped an impressive relay performance as Minnesota scored in all five of its relays.

Akradi, Shaughnessy, junior Stacy Busack and junior Meredith McCarthy set a new school record in the 400 medley relay with a time of 3:17.19, good for a 12th place finish.

“It was an unbelievably fast meet,” Akradi said. “It was by far the fastest meet in history.”

“It was definitely unlike anything I’ve seen before,” Shaughnessy added.

Although the Gophers finished in the exact same spot they did a season ago, the experience of competing in a championship meet will lead to greater performances as they learn to handle the pressure.

“A lot of girls did a good job of handling the pressure,” Shaughnessy said. “The girls did a good job of maintaining focus.”

The Gophers figure to only get stronger for next season as they prepare to defend their Big Ten title – 11 of the athletes from the NCAA will return next season.

“We have a strong freshman group coming in here next season,” Shaughnessy said. “We’re going to be even stronger.”

Minnesota finished the meet with eight athletes earning All-American awards. All five of its relays earned All-American awards for the first time in school history.