Minnesota rolled past its competition with season-best swims

Brian Stensaas

The Minnesota women’s swimming and diving team found itself in a foreign situation this weekend — the Gophers were considered underdogs in a dual meet.
On paper, the Gophers, ranked 14th in the nation, were behind No. 13 Wisconsin. It didn’t take long to see the rankings were flat-out wrong. Minnesota whipped the Badgers 223-128 and beat Purdue and Illinois in the process.
“As soon as the first medley relay — our ‘A’ relay — went very, very fast, I thought, ‘OK, this is going to be a good meet. We don’t have to worry,'” coach Jean Freeman said.
The Gophers helped themselves along with excellent starts and ever-improving flip turns on the weekend.
After a solid first day of competition, Minnesota picked up where it left off.
The first three events of the second day were won by the Gophers, including taking the top three places in the 400 individual medley. Freeman said the 400 IM could have been the key to the meet.
“We had four people in that IM, and all four had solid places,” she said. “To do that, including a one-through-three, really helped.”
In the very next event, the 100 freestyle, it was evident Wisconsin was showing signs of wear.
Minnesota’s Jenny Hennen won the 100 free, almost two seconds faster than Wisconsin’s sluggish Ellen Stonebreaker. Two events later, Terri Jashinsky won the 100 butterfly over Wisconsin’s Gina Panighetti, and Baum followed by taking the 500 freestyle.
For Jashinsky, her neck-and-neck race with Panighetti was one she would like to relive at the Big Ten meet in three weeks.
“We always have good races against each other,” she said. “After this meet, I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season.”
On the boards, Tracy Lavoi and Rachel Degener took respective first and second places in both the 1- and 3-meter diving events
It was a coast for Minnesota from that point on. The Gophers beat Illinois 224-128 and Purdue 235-117 in addition to the win over Wisconsin. The win over the Badgers should move Minnesota back ahead of Wisconsin in the polls and is a definite confidence booster.
Tapering is now the name of the game for Minnesota. Freeman said a select group of 10 swimmers will begin preparing for the Minnesota Challenge next weekend. The rest of the team will be working on weaknesses that need to be cleaned up before the Big Ten meet.
“We still need to sharpen up on a few things,” Freeman said. “There are a few people who are behind, but that just tells me that they need more rest and time to work on things.”

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