Gophers splash into pool at U.S. Olympic Trials

Jim Schortemeyer

INDIANAPOLIS — While the official colors for this week’s United States Olympic Swimming Trials are red, white and blue, there’s plenty of maroon and gold around the pool as well.
The Gophers women’s team has eight athletes competing while the men brought nine to Indianapolis. The hopes are high for the many current and former Gophers, but none of the swimmers are thinking about an Olympic berth.
“We’re just here to have fun and if we go any further, more power to you,” said former Minnesota swimmer Kelsey Hegener.
The Gophers are taking a realistic approach. There’s nobody on either team’s lineup who will be competing for U.S. gold in Sydney next month. Their sights are set on having good swims and enjoying what might be a once-in-a-lifetime event.
“(Former U swimmer) Terri Jashinski swam a lifetime best and finished 23rd, and Jeff Hackler did the same and finished 19th. Those are good, but not in position to make the team,” Minnesota women’s coach Jean Freeman said. “We’re here to put an end or start to a great career.”
While the maroon and gold are poolside, that doesn’t mean they’re easy to find. There are 1,300 swimmers competing for roughly 25 spots on each team this week, which makes for a very busy atmosphere.
“Just to find the kids is crazy,” Freeman said. “We’re here because we’re committed to the kids and we want to see their careers end on a good note.”
The laid-back attitude of the coaches has naturally carried over to the swimmers. Hegener, who swam a personal record in the 100-meter breaststroke preliminaries Thursday, but finished out of the running for a semi-final slot, says the experience is one she’ll treasure.
“I just went in with the attitude that I wasn’t going to let anybody intimidate me. But just to swim in the lane next to some of these swimmers is an honor,” Hegener said.
“We hang out a lot at the hotel and we have people swimming in every event so we come out and watch every day. We’re having a lot of fun.”