Women begin Big Ten season versus Iowa on Saturday

The Hawkeyes meet begins the Gophers’ first Big Ten season without Jean Freeman.

Kent Erdahl

This weekend marks a new beginning for Minnesota’s women’s swimming and diving program.

When the Gophers host Iowa for their first Big Ten dual of the season at 1 p.m. Saturday at the University Aquatic Center, it will mark the beginning of the first conference season in the program’s 31-year history as a varsity sport without former Minnesota coach Jean Freeman at the helm.

But it’s not as if the coaches leading this season’s Gophers are wet behind the ears.

Minnesota’s co-head coaches, Terry Nieszner and Kelly Kremer, have 33 seasons of experience in the Minnesota program – 27 of which Nieszner shared as an assistant with Freeman.

For Nieszner, whom Freeman coached at Minnesota before joining immediately after graduation, it’s been an adjustment approaching the sport without such a familiar face.

But Neiszner said she is getting used to it and ready to start competing in the conference.

“The first meet we had this year was emotional because it was the first one that she hadn’t been a part of since I was 18,” Nieszner said. “But, at the same time, starting the season with Kelly Kremer this year is exciting, different and basically energizing.”

Kremer comes to the women’s program after six seasons on the men’s side of the program – two of which he served as associate coach under Minnesota men’s coach Dennis Dale.

Although his change to the women’s program is still relatively new, Kremer said he has enjoyed coaching with Nieszner and is anxious to get the conference season under way.

“I was excited when we were first given the opportunity,” Kremer said. “And, since then, that feeling has only grown.”

The coaches both said they have reason for optimism, because the team is going to be competitive.

The Gophers showed that with a 194-98 dual victory over Iowa State last weekend.

But Minnesota figures to have a much stiffer test this weekend when it faces Iowa, a top conference opponent, Kremer said.

“This Iowa squad provides a great early season challenge, and we look forward to it,” Kremer said. “We’re going to take a step forward this year. The question is just how far.”

Men head to Chapel Hill

Minnesota’s men’s swimming and diving team will travel to Chapel Hill, N.C., this weekend to take on North Carolina and Virginia Tech in triple-dual format Friday and Saturday.

The Gophers are currently ranked seventh in the College Swim Coaches Association of America Top 25 poll. North Carolina is No. 12.

Sean Kelly was named Big Ten swimmer of the week earlier this week. The All-American won both the 100- and 200-yard breaststrokes against Florida on Saturday.