Swimming and diving face second strong weekend

Brian Stensaas

The tidal wave of ranked competition that came crashing into the Aquatic Center last weekend has long subsided.
But a new ripple has formed and the Minnesota swimming and diving teams are just as prepared for the onslaught.
Women’s swimming and diving
After defeating then eighth-ranked Michigan and ninth-ranked Nebraska last weekend, the women’s team will take on unranked Iowa State on Friday. Minnesota will then leap right back into the sea of rankquility Saturday, taking on No. 10 Northwestern.
Coach Jean Freeman said that while Saturday’s matchup against Northwestern will surely bring the better competition, she’s not overlooking Iowa State.
“We’re having some of our team focus more on Iowa State and some focus on Northwestern,” she said. “We know that Northwestern is going to give us more of a run, but we know the capability that they both bring.”
Namely, Freeman said the Cyclones will be strong in the breaststroke and distance swims and she knows not to take the team lightly.
“We’re definitely not overlooking Iowa State,” she said. “They’re a Division-I team with a good coach. They have earned the right for respect.”
The prowl of the Wildcats brings a bit of a different scenario.
Last year in Evanston, the Gophers brought in an undefeated record only to be stopped in their tracks by the Wildcats. Minnesota lost 154-146.
To put the score into perspective, the Gophers lost two crucial relays by one-tenth of a second. The 14 points gained by Northwestern made the difference in the meet.
“We respect what happened last year and we are using that for motivation now,” Freeman said. “We know that we’re going to see another close meet, but we’d like to see the tables turned.”
Minnesota’s diving squad, fresh off of a clean one-two-three sweep of the one- and three-meter competitions last weekend is poised to have another strong showing.
“It’s a lot of fun to get all three (places),” senior diver Rachel Degener said. “We score good points for the team. It’s nice to do our part.”
Men’s swimming and diving
With just one dual meet on the docket this weekend against Northwestern, the men’s swimming and diving team has the luxury of stressing its focus on just one team.
“I was just ecstatic about the swimming that we did last weekend,” coach Dennis Dale said. “I’d like to see that again this weekend, but I would be surprised if we do.”
One thing that is a big help to any team swimming against the Wildcats this season is the loss of Brian Walters to graduation. The absence of the 1999 Big Ten 200-yard backstroke champion will be a welcome sight to Dale.
“It’s not like they are horrible without him,” he said, “but he was a big part of their team.”
While unranked Northwestern may not be a threat, the Gophers know they can’t take any team lightly.
“If we want to be a quality team, we’ve got to race well all throughout the season,” Dale said. “If anything, you can always race against the clock.”
While not preoccupied with getting a win, Dale moved things around a bit in his lineup in order to get his swimmers used to more than one event.
Senior Alex Massura will be competing in freestyle events while sophomore Ricardo Dornelas will trade in his freestyle wings for the butterfly variety. Freshman Matt Taylor will also be moved from freestyle to butterfly events.
Sophomore Max von Bodungen said that if the same effort is put forth this weekend as last, look for successful results.
“We’ve been out there busting our asses this week getting ready,” he said. “We could take this (weekend) easy, but we want to show teams all across America that we are dedicated every weekend.”

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