Seniors eye final NCAA meet

Brian Stensaas

You’ve probably heard the saying. You know the one, where owners start to look like their pets? Two Minnesota swimmers’ careers resemble the name of their event:the butterfly.
Minnesota seniors Jenny Hennen and Terri Jashinsky started their respective swimming careers at Minnesota in separate events, Hennen in the freestyle and Jashinsky in the butterfly event.
But through the past four years, they have both risen to the top of the team in a butterfly event (the 100 or 200), developing alongside each other.
Now, as the two prepare to compete in their fourth straight NCAA championship meet this weekend in Indianapolis, time is nearly up on a pair of solid college swimming careers.
“They’ve both been consistent performers for us,” Gophers coach Jean Freeman said. “They’re both very eager to get down there and swim. They’re both very talented women.”
Through it all, thick and thin, the two have remained side by side. As teammates, they have their lockers set up next to each other and often train together.
However, they also have something special that will never be broken — friendship.
“It’s been great being able to train with her and be together all the years,” Hennen said. “I’m really glad that we’re going to get to be (at the NCAA championships) again.”
Both will be competing at the 2000 NCAA meet in three individual events and take part in the four Minnesota relays.
The road always has to start somewhere. It began in 1997 for the two. While both were excited first-year swimmers in the national spotlight and competed in individual events as well as the Minnesota relays, their accomplishments had to be shared. Minnesota’s Gretchen Hegener won a national championship that year in the 100 breaststroke.
Hennen garnered the pair’s first individual acclaim in 1998 by taking 13th in the 200 butterfly while Jashinsky swam a season-best time in the 100, a sign of things to come. Just one year later, Jashinsky took 13th in the 100 butterfly, the only Gopher to gain individual national attention last year.
And as they prepare to leave for this year’s event, that same excitement is still as prevalent as it was back in 1997.
“The first year, you’re super, super nervous,” Jashinsky said. “But as you get older and faster, you learn how to prepare better. It doesn’t get old or anything. There are still nerves.”
Both are riding positive 1999-00 campaigns into the championships.
Hennen scored in the top five in three events at the Big Ten meet last month, the only Gophers swimmer to do so. Jashinsky was just a hundredth of a second away from her second-straight conference championship in the 100 butterfly and finished fourth in the 200 fly.
“It’s my last year. I want to go out there and do my best,” Hennen said. “Over the years, you look to be more confident and just concentrate on what you have to do.”
After four years together, friends sometimes find something they don’t like about each other. But the pair has nothing but praise for each other.
“I’m glad that we are both going there again together,” Hennen said. “It is so much fun to be able to get to go again. It was iffy there for a bit on if I was going to go or not, and I was so happy to find out that I was going again with her.”
Jashinsky echoed the compliment.
“Jenny is just an awesome swimmer and great to know, let alone be friends with,” she said. “I think I’m lucky to have these four years with someone like that.”
Their positive attitudes and overwhelming success in the lanes of the Aquatic Center will be remembered for some time to come. Whether it’s their mention on the school-record board or the All-America plaques that grace the walls of the facility, they will be there.
It’s only fitting that the pair travel to Indianapolis together to once again compete at the NCAA championships this week.

Brian Stensaas covers swimming and diving and welcomes comments at [email protected]