Gophers focus on relays

The women’s team has only lost three of its 17 relay races so far this season.

by Thomas Jaakola

The Gophers women’s swimming and diving team has only lost one dual meet all season, thanks to an extra emphasis on the highest-scoring events: relays.
Sophomore Danielle Nack, senior Lauren Votava and freshman Zoe Avestruz were a part of the team’s four consecutive relay victories to open the year, with freshmen Kaia Grobe and Rachel Munson also helping out at different points.
“We have been putting a much higher emphasis on them this year,” Nack said. “We will practice relays once a week along with trying new techniques, which has been really fun.”
One of the team’s few hiccups on relays this year came in Madison, Wis., when Minnesota lost both relays to Wisconsin.
“The hardest part is realizing that you’re responsible for the team’s success,” Votava said. “Maybe not completely, but in a way, your job is to get as far ahead of your competition as you can to set your team up as well as possible.”
The Gophers had one of their most impressive relay performances in their last meet against the University of Denver and Brigham Young University, winning the 200 medley, 400 medley, 400 freestyle and 800 freestyle relays.
The women’s team has won 14 of the 17 relays it has competed in overall this year.
Nack said the chemistry the Gophers have been able to form on their relays has helped them succeed.
“Being able to compete with three other girls that have the same goals and desires is such an amazing feeling, especially when we are able to have an outstanding performance,” Nack said. “When competing on a relay, it’s all about the team.”
Votava said there is less “bad pressure” in a relay compared to an individual race, as she said she doesn’t feel as nervous competing with other teammates. There is a higher amount of “good pressure” instead, knowing together the relay can come up with big points in the meet, she said.
“I get way more excited for relays than individual races,” Votava said. “Swimming as part of a team is the biggest reason I love college swimming and competing. You have your teammates literally behind you, and you’re swimming for the team.”
The men’s team didn’t get off the starting blocks as well as the women’s team when it came to relays, but it has now won eight of its last 11 relay races.
“You really feel that you contribute to the success of your team if the relays swim well,” junior Paul Fair said. “In swimming, there is always some stud athlete that does really well individually, but you need four solid people to make a good relay, so anything can happen.”