Gophers’ Wilson going home for Big Ten meet

by Jim Schortemeyer

A chance to go home is always nice, especially when the trip includes an opportunity to become a three-time Big Ten champion.
It will be a homecoming of sorts for senior swimmer Kim Wilson at the Big Ten Championships in Bloomington, Ind., this weekend. For the Gophers senior, it’s a chance to end her swimming career back in the state where it started.
“It’s always nice to go back to Indiana,” Wilson said.
Her Hoosier State swimming career began in South Bend, under the shadow of football legends like The Four Horsemen and Joe Montana.
Wilson had some impressive results herself near the famed Notre Dame campus. She was all-state from 1991-94, the 1993 Indiana Female Swimmer of the Year and a two-time All-American.
Originally, Wilson had no plans to come to Minnesota.
“I knew I wanted to come to the Big Ten,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t even thinking of Minnesota at the time.”
Both her parents are products of the University of Indiana, so it seemed she might go to their alma mater. But in 1993, fate intervened when Gophers Head Coach Jean Freeman met Wilson coached at the 1993 Olympic festival. The next year, Wilson came to Minnesota.
Her impact was immediate. She scored 56.5 points for the team at the Big Ten Championships her freshman year, winning the 1,650-yard freestyle race and placing second in the 500 freestyle.
Her performance at the Big Ten Championships her sophomore year wasn’t quite as successful, but she came back strong last year to win her second 1,650 freestyle championship. Her efforts earned her a trip to the NCAA Championships, where she finished 13th in the 1650 and 19th in the 500.
Those results earned her All-American status for the third time in her life and helped her become a captain of this year’s team.
Having Wilson as a captain was an easy process for Freeman and the rest of the team. Her style of leadership is different from the other three captains, and her training is admired by her coaches.
“Kim leads by example,” Freeman said. “She has a phenomenal capacity for work.”
Wilson has had a charmed career in Minnesota. Unlike many swimmers, who develop bone spurs or muscle problems after years of practice, she has maintained good health.
“She’s probably the only swimmer I’ve known to go through four years and never have an injury,” Freeman said.
The only complaint Freeman has is that Wilson takes some of the fun out of coaching. Freeman said she can’t use sports psychology on the senior because she’s so analytical.
Out of the pool, Wilson is working towards continuing a family tradition of teaching. She’s an elementary education major and hopes to go into teaching, just like her mom and older sister.
Before she advances any career plans, however, she has one last swim, back in her home state, in the Big Ten Championships.
It’s her last chance to swim for a team championship at the Big Tens, and only one detail is in her path: Michigan. The Wolverines have won 11 championships in a row, and there doesn’t appear to be an end in the dynasty. Michigan is ranked sixth in the nation, while Minnesota has been stuck in the same spot, No. 10, all year.
Wilson doesn’t seem to be concerned by Michigan, the team championship or the home-state competition. It’s all about achieving potential.
“If everybody swims as well as they can, that’d be enough for me,” Wilson said.
That attitude helps Wilson remain focused on personal goals. She’ll be swimming the 500, 1650, and 400 individual medley at the championships this weekend. When the races start, she won’t be thinking about the state, the pool or even the times.
“I’m going to be swimming my race,” Wilson said.