U swimmers change lineup, flatten Iowa

Ryan Schuster

Before Saturday’s swim meet against Iowa at the University Aquatic Center, Gophers women’s swimming coach Jean Freeman allowed all of her seniors sign up for one event in which they wanted to compete. This strange strategy was designed to let Minnesota’s 14 seniors enjoy themselves in the last home dual meet of their college careers.
Because of the lineup juggling, only three of Minnesota’s event winners from a week ago at the Quad Duals won the same event against the Hawkeyes. The end result, however, was the same as the Gophers swam past Iowa, 187-106.
Minnesota won 15-of-16 events in the meet, with Iowa’s lone first-place finish coming in the 200-yard freestyle relay, the last event of the competition. Despite shifting their lineups, the Gophers (15-0) still set four new Minnesota-Iowa dual meet records.
Junior Olga Splichalova broke former Iowa swimmer Jane Keating’s 11-year-old dual meet record in the 500 freestyle by over three seconds with a time of 4 minutes, 55.23 seconds.
For Minnesota, it was a fine way to prepare for Big Tens, Feb. 20-22.
“It’s a confidence builder because people are showing that they can win events that they normally don’t swim,” Gophers senior Devon Coellner said.
Kim Wilson and Jessica Grass also broke records set by Keating in 1986. Wilson swam the 1,000 freestyle in 10:07.31 and Grass set a new mark in the 200 butterfly with a time of 2:04.15. Minnesota’s Beth Shimanski eclipsed an old Gophers-Hawkeyes dual meet mark in the 100 backstroke in 58.34.
Seniors bring success
In the midst of one the best seasons Minnesota’s swimming and diving program has ever had, it is easy to forget how far both teams have come in such a short time.
In men’s coach Dennis Dale’s first year at Minnesota (1985-86), the Gophers finished ninth in the Big Ten. Last year, the men won the conference title. At weeks end, the team was 10-0 overall and ranked No. 9 nationally.
The women’s team has also made a big turnaround. One of the biggest factors in the team’s improvement has been the contributions of this year’s senior class.
“It’s been a great class that has changed the direction of Minnesota women’s swimming and diving,” Freeman said.
In 1992-93 — the year before this year’s seniors were freshmen — the Gophers finished sixth in the Big Ten. The Gophers have shown steady progress recently. In the last three years the team has finished third twice and second once.
With a strong senior class, the success of the 1997 Gophers is undeniable. They have equalled the program’s record for dual meet wins in a season (13), and set a new high for conference victories (7). At No. 8 in the nation, no women’s swimming team has been ranked higher.