National swimming meet brings long list of stars to Aquatic Center

Jim Schortemeyer

Minnesota’s Aquatic Center was just beginning to cool off after the recent NCAA Championships, and now the Phillips 66 National Swimming Championships are in town.
Some of the biggest names in U.S. swimming are on hand for the five-day event, which began with the women’s and men’s 800-meter freestyle Wednesday night. Diana Munz won the women’s event, while Tom Dolan took the men’s competition.
Competitors include Amy Van Dyken, the four-time Olympic Champion in 1996; Dolan, the reigning world champion in the 400-meter individual medley; and Brooke Bennett, the reigning Olympic champion in the 800-meter freestyle.
“I haven’t rested at all coming into this meet,” said Bennett, who finished second Wednesday night. “So as long as I get a couple of good swims, I’ll be happy.”
Times figure to be fast, and Minnesotans are going to be competing in the co-ed meet as well. The entire Gophers men’s team will be competing, and hopes to win the team championship at the meet. Junior Martin Zielinski might have the best chance of finishing high for Minnesota, after placing sixth in the 100-yard butterfly last weekend at the NCAA Championships.
The Gophers women’s team will have six swimmers, most of whom are freshmen. They will be busy, swimming in 11 events with an emphasis on the butterfly and sprint-freestyle events.
The national meet differs from typical swimming competitions throughout the year in many ways. The pool is twice as long as the one Minnesota swimmers are used to, the NCAA is not governing the meet and there will be more than 800 swimmers competing.
Dolan expressed bittersweet feelings about returning to Minnesota after years of competing for Michigan.
“I’ve swam real well here at Big Tens,” he said. “I haven’t really had a bad meet here.”
But not all of Dolan’s memories from Minneapolis are pleasant. After several Michigan athletes rearranged a banquet room at the Radisson Metrodome following a previous meet, all Michigan swimmers were banned from the hotel. Although Dolan is no longer with the Wolverines, he said the expulsion goes beyond the realm of the Radisson.
“I don’t think it’s fair, because I wasn’t involved,” Dolan said. “There’s a perimeter range now that we’re not allowed to stay in.”