Zielinski wins title, qualifies for Goodwill Games

Jim Schortemeyer

An old sports maxim held true at this weekend’s Phillips 66 National Swimming Championships: Age and wisdom will always defeat youth and talent.
But while the veteran U.S. National team members held their ground this weekend at the University Aquatic Center, Minnesota’s swimmers turned in some of the most memorable performance in their recent history. The Gophers men crowned five national champions — one individual and four members of a relay team — and placed two swimmers on the U.S. National team.
Those two, Martin Zielinski and John Cahoy, turned in two of the best Minnesota swims this year. Zielinski provided the lone individual championship for Minnesota in the 100-meter butterfly. He also exacted a little revenge from last week’s NCAA Championships, where he finished sixth in the 100-yard fly.
John Cahoy, Zielinski’s roommate on team road trips, had a strong showing as well. Cahoy placed fourth in Thursday’s 100-meter freestyle to earn an invitation to the national team as well. As Zielinski talked to the press after the race, a beaming Cahoy stood at the back of the media room watching his roommate, who will travel with him to the Goodwill Games this summer.
“John actually told me he wanted a roommate because we always room together, so that motivated me,” Zielinski said.
Minnesota’s women’s swimmers had a less spectacular, but sound meet, with most of their swimmers posting lifetime bests. Jenny Hennen broke the state record for the 100-meter freestyle, while her teammates were setting personal records as well. Some of the Gophers seemed in awe of the big-name swimmers at the meet.
“Just warming up in the same pool with them is awesome,” freshman Katy Christofferson said. “It opens your eyes to see how fast you can go.”
Veterans from the U.S. National team performed as expected, even with newcomers knocking on the door. Ashley Tappin, an Olympic team veteran from 1996, overcame chronic shoulder problems to win four national crowns.
“I’m 23, but I have the shoulders of a 40-year-old,” Tappin said.
She wasn’t the only former Olympian looking for a Goodwill Games berth. Tom Dolan won four events as well, but will not be competing at the games. Josh Davis and Gary Hall, Jr., both 1992 Olympians, also won races at the championships this weekend.
Competitors in the meet ranged from ages 12 to 36, and though the majority of wins came from those 18 and older, some of the young swimmers got involved. Jamie Reid, 14, won the women’s 100-meter backstroke. It was Reid’s first national title, in her first trip to the championships.
In team competition, the 18- to 22-year-old college set ruled. With NCAA men’s team champion Stanford and runner-up Auburn staying home, there was a void in the team competition — one which Minnesota filled nicely.
The Gophers won the men’s team competition, mostly because of their strong relay teams. They scored the majority of points for the team, anchored by a first-place finish in the 800-meter freestyle relay. The 400-meter relay teams from Minnesota placed second and fifth.
Minnesota’s strong team and individual performances could serve as a boon for future recruiting. With club teams from around the nation participating at the meet, there was more than a little interest shown by Minnesota coaches. They were watching the young swimmers with vested interest, and held several recruiting seminars over the weekend.
“You can use this meet to observe, but we can’t contact the swimmers,” men’s coach Dennis Dale said.
The meet effectively ends the swimming season for Minnesota, which returns all its swimmers who finished in the top eight in this meet. Yoav Meiri, who placed sixth in the 400-meter individual medley, said it was a good way to finish the year.
“We just come and have fun,” Meiri said. “It’s what swimming is all about.”

Minnesota’s Top 16 Finishers

Men’s
Bill Bishop — 10th, 400m individual medley; 12th, 1500m freestyle
Martin Zielinski — 1st, 100m butterfly
John Cahoy — 4th, 100m freestyle; 6th, 100m butterfly
Brandon Schindler — 6th, 50m freestyle
Yoav Meiri — 6th, 400m individual medley; 9th, 200m individual medley

Women’s
Jenny Hennen — 10th, 100m butterfly; 13th, 200m backstroke; 12th, 100m freestyle
Emily Deppe — 15th, 200m backstroke
Ann Cahoy — 16th, 200m backstroke