Swimming teams have mixed results

by Jim Schortemeyer

Head coach Dennis Dale and most of the No. 13 Gophers men’s swimming and diving team went into this weekend’s triangular meet in Nebraska thinking they were under-ranked. With the results from the meet, they might have proved it.
Minnesota’s depth and talent helped to easily outpace No. 16 Nebraska by the score of 230-140, and No. 21 Texas A&M, 253-111.
The Gophers got off to a good start Friday, opening a 60-point lead on Nebraska. The Gophers won six of the nine races on Friday, sweeping the relay category. Minnesota’s strength in relays was evident on Saturday as well, as it won two of three races.
Junior Martin Zielinski has continued dropping his in-season times, and he recorded the Gophers’ only NCAA consideration time of the weekend. Zielinski’s time of 48.69 in the butterfly won him the NCAA consideration, but not the race. He finished second in that event but came back to win the 100-yard backstroke.
As a whole, the team’s intensity proved to be too much for the other teams. The second and third swimmers from Minnesota kept pace with Nebraska and Texas A&M’s fastest swimmers.
“One thing we emphasized to the swimmers was depth,” Dale said.
Distance swimmer Bill Bishop continued an impressive season with double wins in the 1,000 and 500 freestyle races. Bishop, the school record holder in two events, is swimming faster than he did at this point last season.
Minnesota got a bit of a scare when Dan Croaston lost for the first time this season on Friday. But Croaston came back strong Saturday with a victory in the 3-meter diving competition.
Because the victories were by comfortable margins against stiff competition, they should help Minnesota gain respect in the coaches’ poll.
“Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call for the pollsters,” Dale said.
Women’s swimming
The Gophers women’s swimming and diving team went 1-for-2 over the weekend, defeating Texas A&M 222-145, but narrowly falling to host Nebraska at a triangular meet. Nebraska pulled away in the early part of Saturday’s competition and never looked back, winning 194-176. The meet started off fairly well for the Gophers on Friday. Minnesota won four of the seven individual events, and one of the two relays. At the end of the day, the Cornhuskers led the Gophers by a scant margin of 96-90.
But Saturday proved to be the Gophers’ downfall. They managed to place first in only one event, Andrea Simakova’s win in the 200 butterfly, and were swept in the relays. They managed to stay close to Nebraska with a plethora of second- and third-place finishes.
“Friday we had more of our stronger events,” captain Gretchen Hegener said.
One sore spot for Minnesota over the weekend was the lack of strength in the relays. While Minnesota won only one of the five relays, Nebraska won the rest.
“It’s a little deceiving, because four of our five relay teams swam season-best times,” coach Jean Freeman said.
Minnesota wasn’t helped by the presence of No. 25 Texas A&M, either. If the Aggies had more top finishers, it would have cost Nebraska some of their bountiful first-place points. Unfortunately for Minnesota, Texas A&M won only one event.
Still another problem was a slight falter in the normally consistent divers. T.D. Rowe and Tracy LaVoi — who have consistently finished first and second, respectively — were non-factors in the diving competition. Rowe, a junior who transferred from Nebraska, finished third on the 3-meter diving platform and fourth on the 1-meter.
Despite losing to Nebraska, Hegener and Freeman both said the team is upbeat and ready for next weekend’s quad meet in Madison, Wis. The event will include No. 16 Wisconsin, No. 21 Illinois, and Purdue. Tenth-ranked Minnesota is the pre-meet favorite, as it defeated Wisconsin at the Minnesota Invitational earlier in the year and holds the highest ranking among competing teams.