Swimming teams set for home weekend tune-up

Jim Schortemeyer

The Gophers men’s and women’s swimming and diving coaches hold no illusions that this weekend’s Minnesota Challenge is the most important meet of the year.
The competition — Gustavus, St. Thomas, UW Eau Claire, the Hastings Swim Club, and the Twin Cities Swim Team — is far from strong. Both head coaches were candid in admitting the meet is less about the competition than finalizing roster spots and preparing for the imminent Big Ten Championships.
“We’re letting Big Ten travel squad swimmers swim the events they need to,” said men’s coach Dennis Dale. “And it’s the last chance for athletes not on the travel squad to make it.”
Preparation for Big Tens is a more urgent cause for the women because their tournament — held Feb. 19-21 in Bloomington, Ind. — is a week earlier than the men’s.
The women’s team has determined its travel squad already, and is using the meet to prepare for the Big Ten and NCAA Championships.
“We took Big Tens and NCAAs, and turned them into a three session meet (instead of six),” women’s coach Jean Freeman said. “It gets the team ready for the order of events.”
The Gophers are returning to the championships with four individual event winners.
The men’s team is also preparing for the Big Tens, held at the Aquatic Center from Feb. 26-28.
Team members are hoping for a home pool advantage at the championships. Minnesota is ranked 13th in the nation, above all Big Ten teams except Michigan. The Wolverines have won 11 of the last 12 championships, with Minnesota winning in 1996.