New diving coach projected to help Minnesota earn more meet points

The Gophers brought in Jason Baumann this season after Mike Martens left the program.

Matt Perkins

Minnesota’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are on their third diving coach in four years.

Kongzheng Li ended seven years with the Gophers back in 2003, and Mike Martens moved back to Australia this summer to coach after just two years at Minnesota.

So it’s understandable that some of the senior divers could have a harder time transitioning to another coach.

But now the Gophers may be able to settle down with new coach Jason Baumann, who brings a lot of experience to the table with his young sum. And they’ve shown signs of settling in early on this year.

Baumann was the head diving coach at Wyoming from 1999-2001, and an assistant coach at Indiana before the Gophers pulled him away from the Hoosiers in July.

And it took quite a pulling effort to get him away from his alma mater.

“He brings experience to the table not only as a coach but from his own experiences over there,” Gophers women’s diver Holly Jakits said. “He has a fresher sense of technique and other things that can help us improve.”

Baumann earned All-American honors in the platform his senior year at Indiana, and went on to compete at the U.S. National Championships 10 times.

Indiana has been one of the top diving programs in the nation for years, and now it’s in Baumann’s hands to raise the notoriety level of Minnesota’s program.

And that starts with his team.

“I’m very fortunate that I have a good group of individuals that work well together,” Baumann said. “They are a positive group, supportive of one another and they are making progress that way.”

The progress has shown early on this season, with the Gophers placing at least two divers in the top three of every diving event Nov. 20 at the Minnesota Invitational held at the University Aquatic Center.

Baumann said he has been impressed by his team’s success early on this season.

“It’s about trying to get our team to perform their best at the end of the year,” Baumann said. “We’ll see how they stack up at that point.”

But the early success is a boost to the team’s confidence.

And the team says it’s been a direct effect of Baumann’s coaching style.

“He makes you want to work, which is different than a lot of coaching perspectives,” junior men’s diver Shaun Kennedy said. “The team as a whole is performing at a much higher level than we have in the past.”

The Gophers will have to continue to improve though, starting this weekend as they travel to Columbus, Ohio for the Ohio State Invitational.

The event will be another way for Baumann to measure his squad’s early season success.

“It’s going to be an interesting challenge,” Baumann said, “because we are going to see a bunch of squads we haven’t gotten a chance to look at so far this year.”

But he refuses to put any expectations or high hopes on his team yet ” they’re a work in progress.

“I’m hopeful we will come back and get ourselves some opportunities to dive in the finals,” Baumann said. “I think we can get a couple in the top eight.”