Gophers dominate at Jean Freeman Invite

Minneosta’s men’s and women’s teams combined for 25 first-place finishes.

Minnesotas Alex Cisneros looks up after winning the mens 400-yard individual medley at the Jean Freeman Invitational at the University Aquatic Center on Saturday.

Lisa Persson

Minnesota’s Alex Cisneros looks up after winning the men’s 400-yard individual medley at the Jean Freeman Invitational at the University Aquatic Center on Saturday.

by David Nelson

Minnesota’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams had a combined 25 first-place finishes this weekend at the Jean Freeman Invitational — 11 events for the women and 14 for the men.

In their final meet of 2013, both teams dominated the eight other schools in attendance.

“It was just a really good way, I think, for both teams to end the fall semester,” women’s head coach Terry Nieszner said. “We kind of know where we are at … [and] we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Nieszner filled in for head coach Kelly Kremer, who was out of town.

The team’s room for improvement wasn’t obvious at the Jean Freeman Invitational, where the Gophers ruled over second-tier competition.

While most of the teams in attendance were Division III, Minnesota still competed at a high level.

“We raced the best we could,” sophomore Kierra Smith said.

Even if the competition wasn’t as intense, the Gophers had some elite opponents — their own teammates.

“It made it a little more exciting, and it kind of reminded [me] how cool it is to be a Gopher and how much fun it is to be a part of this program,” Smith said.

The Gophers won every relay event at the meet, an area Smith said the team feels confident in at this point in the season.

“[They] are going to be very exciting to watch,” Smith said. “I know that every time … we’re practicing the relays, we’re thinking about the Big Ten [championships] and just how we can get better for that.”

While the relay teams performed well across the board, junior Blake Zeiger stood out for the women. She took home first place in the 50-yard freestyle and helped Minnesota finish first in three relay events.

On the men’s side, freshman Daryl Turner won the 50 freestyle and the 100 backstroke and helped the Gophers win four relays.

“He’s a great competitor,” Nieszner said. “He’s a freshman that’s certainly come in and really adapted extremely well.”

Senior Kyler Van Swol also put up a great performance, winning the 100 butterfly and the 200 freestyle. He also contributed to four relay wins.

The Gophers face a tough test during the next month to stay in competition shape until meets resume in January.

“It’s so much on the shoulders of our student-athletes to keep their goals in mind and stay really focused on what they need to do to prepare for what comes in February and March,” Kremer said.

Smith said the athletes understand this, too.

“We have to stay focused and [know] there’s still so much work to be done,” she said.