Six Gophers continue on to NCAA championships

Two swimmers and four divers qualified for the last meet of the season.

Danny Chen

The Gophers are looking toward the NCAA championships this weekend, but this year, they’ll bring a smaller core with them.

Minnesota qualified two men’s swimmers and four divers for the meet, compared to last year when the team had nine student-athletes at the championships — eight swimmers and one diver.

“We’re taking a smaller group, but I expect the group of men that we are taking to all perform very well and be at their best,” head coach Kelly Kremer said. “And hopefully that would translate to points on the board.”

Last year, the Gophers scored just 29 team points and placed 22nd in the NCAA championships.

Kremer said it would be difficult to predict how the team will place this year with fewer Gophers competing.

“Team-place-wise, I’m going to let that kind of come out in the wash and see where we end up,” Kremer said.

Sophomores Jakub Maly and Matt Barnard and senior CJ Smith are among the returning athletes who were on last year’s championships roster.

Maly competed in the 200- and 400-yard individual medley last year, taking 27th in the 200 IM with a time of 1:44.76. In the 400 individual medley, Maly was named All-American honorable mention after placing 15th at 3:46.97.

Maly said he has set his goal high for this year’s NCAA championships.

“I want to for sure end up [placing] better in the 400 IM,” Maly said. “I got 15th last year, but my goal is to get into the top eight.”

And there is a reason why placing in the top eight is Maly’s goal.

“The [athletes] placing from one to eight are named All-Americans, and nine to 16 are named All-American honorable mentions,” Maly said. “[Top eight] is at least what I want to get. That’s kind of the expectation I have for myself.”

Last year, only one student-athlete was named All-American, but six others earned honorable mentions.

Kremer said the six athletes competing this year all have potential to achieve similar success.

“Last year, we had the 200-free relay team score and place 13th,” Kremer said. “So all four men became All-American honorable mentions in one swim. This year, each man has to earn his individual [accolades]. But I think all six of our guys have the potential to score. It could be close.”

Smith, an All-American honorable mention last year after finishing 16th in the 1,650-yard freestyle, will be competing in two events in this year’s NCAA championships — the 500- and 1,650-yard freestyle.

As a senior, he said he is excited for his final championship meet.

“Just to have the chance to represent Minnesota one last time is special,” Smith said. “It will be a good moment and definitely will be some good racing going on.”