Toomey, Herrild star as Gophers dominate Minnesota Challenge, prepare for Big Ten meet

The women’s Big Ten championships start Feb. 20. The men’s start Feb. 27.

Minnesotas Derek Toomey swims in the mens 100-yard breaststroke during the Minnesota Challenge on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, at the University Aquatic Center.

Ichigo Takikawa

Minnesota’s Derek Toomey swims in the men’s 100-yard breaststroke during the Minnesota Challenge on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, at the University Aquatic Center.

by Nate Gotlieb

Junior captain Derek Toomey set a career high in the 50-yard freestyle as the Gophers men’s and women’s swimming teams dominated their final home meet of the season this weekend.

Thirty-six Gophers swimmers and divers notched victories at the 10-team Minnesota Challenge on Friday and Saturday at the University Aquatic Center.

Toomey swam the 50 freestyle Friday in 19.83 seconds, tying him for the 14th-fastest time in Division I this season.

“The 50 felt awesome,” Toomey said. “Right when I hit the water, I knew I was going sub-20.”

Toomey swam the race not rested and unshaved, which made it that much more impressive, according to men’s and women’s head coach Kelly Kremer.

“We expect him to go 19 very low at the end of the year,” Kremer said, “but this time of year getting under 20 — we just haven’t had many people do it.”

For about 20 Gophers swimmers and divers, this weekend’s Minnesota Challenge was their last meet of the season.

These swimmers tapered their training regiment and shaved their legs in preparation for the meet. They also wore special compression swimsuits over the weekend.

“Even though there’s just a few of us tapering for this meet, we have the whole team behind us,” senior Natalie Herrild said. “And that’s a really cool feeling.”

One of the tapering swimmers, sophomore Jimmy Rafter, won five races and set a career high in the 100 backstroke.

Twenty-one men’s swimmers won races on the weekend, including senior captain Jared Anderson, who won the 100 breaststroke for the third consecutive weekend.

Anderson said he tried to improve his first few laps after a slower start two weekends ago.

“It’s a good confidence booster knowing that I can go out as fast as I want to and I can still come home in the same time,” he said.

Anderson also won the 200 breaststroke.

On the women’s side, junior Monica Radecke and freshman Marina Spadoni both won five races. Sophomore Christie Clarke won three individual races, and junior diver Maggie Keefer won the 3-meter dive with a career-high score.

In the final meet of her Gophers career, Herrild won the 200-medley relay and the 400-freestyle relay.

“At the end of a career like this, all you really want to do is look at the board and smile,” Herrild said. “I’d say that a win is a really good way to do that.”

With 10 days until the start of the women’s Big Ten championships, Kremer appeared pleased with his team’s performance.

“I think we’re in good position for what’s to come,” he said.