Diving duo makes splash on Big Ten

Ryan Schuster

Most of the attention surrounding the No. 8 women’s swimming and diving team’s 14-0 start has centered around the team’s top guns Olga Splichalova, Jenny Hennen, Tanya Schuh and Gretchen Hegener.
But there is another group that has been almost as valuable — the Gophers diving duo of seniors Andrea Berg and Carrie Hansen.
“I think we make a very good team,” Berg said. “We add a lot of depth to the diving program.”
Berg and Hansen have combined to place in the top three in all but one 1-meter event, and all 26 of the 3-meter diving events that they’ve entered this season.
“They have been so consistent throughout the year,” Gophers swimming coach Jean Freeman said. “Knowing that (the diving) events are taken care of is very comforting.”
Both divers have had successful careers at Minnesota.
Berg was a Big Ten finalist and placed 11th at the NCAA championships her sophomore year. Last year, she took third in the 1-meter and fourth in the 3-meter diving competitions at Big Tens. Hansen scored in all three diving competitions at Big Tens last year, taking eighth in the 3-meter and platform.
The duo already qualified for the Zone Diving championships — to decide NCAA qualifiers — on Mar. 14-15 at the University Aquatic Center. Both seniors will be competing in the last home dual meet of their collegiate careers this weekend against Iowa.
The Gophers will need Berg and Hansen’s senior presence Saturday against this Hawkeyes diving program. But, if the diving events at the Aquatic Center this weekend go like they have been all season for Minnesota, the Gophers will be fine.
Women reach new plateau
The Gophers women’s swimming and diving team continued its ascent in the polls this week, by moving up one spot to No. 8 in the latest Speedo America Top 25 College Swimming Coaches Poll. The poll, released Wednesday, gives the team its highest-ever national ranking and ties the highest team ranking of any program in the women’s athletics department.
Only the 1991 Gophers softball team was ranked as high.
Men’s swimming stays No. 9
Despite dual meet victories over No. 26 Purdue and unranked Wisconsin last weekend at the Quad Duals, the Gophers men’s swimming and diving team remained the No. 9-ranked team in the Speedo America poll.
Minnesota has been ranked No. 9 since the poll was released Jan. 8. The team is undefeated at 10-0 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten.
Michigan (5th), Indiana (20th) and Ohio State (21st) were the only other Big Ten teams rated in the top 25. The Gophers men’s team has the weekend off before hosting the Minnesota Challenge next weekend.
Hegener named Big Ten Athlete of the Month
Junior swimmer Gretchen Hegener was named January’s Big Ten Athlete of the Month. The Cologne, Minn., native was also named the Minnesota Women’s Athletics Athlete of the Month.
Hegener is ranked second in the 100-yard breaststroke and fourth in the 200 breaststroke among Big Ten swimmers. Iowa, the Gophers’ opponent this weekend, does not have any swimmers with top 20 times in the conference in either of those contests.