owe dives into success at Big Tens

Jim Schortemeyer

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Gophers diver T.D. Rowe had a breakthrough weekend, and the entire Big Ten Conference was privileged to be there. Rowe, a junior transfer, never won a Big 12 crown while at Nebraska, but came alive to take home a Big Ten Championship in both the 1- and 3-meter events over the weekend.
Despite winning the 1-meter on Thursday, Rowe was fidgety before the preliminary round for the 3-meter.
“I hate waiting. I just want to dive,” Rowe said. “But today is a good Friday.”
Indeed, it was. After narrowly defeating Erin Quinn of Indiana by 2.5 points on Thursday, Rowe won more comfortably in the 3-meter competition. Again, Quinn was runner-up, as Rowe dove for 506.45 points, just shy of the school record at that height.
Head diving coach Kongzheng Li said Indiana’s reputation as a strong diving school might have helped Rowe in the long run.
“The (divers) from Indiana had a lot of pressure to win,” Li said.
Rowe and her coaches had prepared for the championships by placing reasonable goals for her diving. A top eight finish was expected of her, while head coach Jean Freeman said she was hoping Rowe would finish in the top three.
“She’s a big-meet diver,” Freeman said.
Rowe won Diver of the Meet honors and also captured Big Ten Diver of the Year accolades. She handled the pressure with a little home remedy — she literally laughed it off.
“I heard a rumor that if you’re afraid, and you smile, it helps,” Rowe said.
The only thing missing for Rowe was the presence of her parents, who live in Washington.
“I know they support me, and would love to be here for me,” Rowe said. “But we have such a good parent crowd, I have 15 pairs of parents up there cheering for me.”
Fast freshmen
Freshman Katy Christofferson won the Gophers’ first swimming title of the meet in the 400 individual medley. She led from the first 50 yards of the race, and never looked back. In fact, with 50 yards to go she surged further ahead of the pack to win by nearly two seconds.
While Christofferson was off winning the race, fellow freshman Emily Deppe was in a battle with Susie Topp of Wisconsin for second. Deppe managed to come back from her sixth position after the first 100 yards to edge Topp by .28 seconds.
Actually, there wasn’t much of a surprise for the Gophers in the breaststroke events, but Gretchen Hegener certainly tried to give fans a heart attack.
Hegener, the Big Ten Champion in the 100 and 200 races, got her best competition of the year in the 100 from Amy Balcerzak of Northwestern. After leading Balcerzak by half a second after the first 50 yards, Hegener had trouble maintaining her brisk pace, and won by less than a tenth of a second.
“I went out really fast,” Hegener reasoned for her near-demise.
Hegener did not repeat that style of swimming in the 200. She won easily with a time of 2:11.99, again over Balcerzak.
“With the 200, I knew I had to go out a little more relaxed,” Hegener said.
Hegener is also the defending NCAA Champion in the 100, and is hoping to reclaim her American record in that event. Minnesota hosts the NCAA Championships from March 19-21 at the Aquatic Center.