Rookie swimmer finds her groove

by David La

There are no tastes sweeter than that of victory, especially when it comes at the expense of your home state’s team. Freshman swimmer Jinny Smedstad got her taste of such a victory last weekend, as she stung Iowa for wins in three events.
Coming off a so-so performance against Northwestern on Friday, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa native had all the incentive she needed to swim her best.
“I think maybe I wanted to show off a little to Mary (Iowa coach Bolich),” Smedstad said. “I wanted to show her what was going on here in Minnesota.”
Show them she did. Smedstad took first in the 200-yard freestyle and backstroke, and both times set Minnesota-Iowa meet records. But the highlight of Smedstad’s weekend was her time in the 400-yard individual medley, good enough for NCAA tournament consideration. Not a bad days work considering the intense meet on Friday night.
“Northwestern was a tough meet mentally,” Smedstad said, “but you have to pick yourself up.
“I was telling Jean (Gophers coach Freeman) that I kind of like these second-day meets.”
What Freeman likes is Smedstad’s versatility as a swimmer. Before competing in the mid-distance events against Iowa, Smedstad swam to second place finishes in the 1000- and 500-yard freestyle events at Northwestern.
“She has a lot of options,” Freeman said, “and more variety really helps you improve.”
Smedstad has swum in about as many states as she has events. Beginning in Texas and continuing on through Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, her career has enabled her the chance to work with many coaches and benefit from vast coaching philosophies.
Her experience swimming for the Cedar Rapids Aquatic Association (CRAA) helped prepare Smedstad for her future in swimming and beyond. In addition to competing in both Junior and Senior National Championships, she was also elected to serve as an athlete representative on the CRAA Board. Smedstad’s coaching at CRAA proved to be a big asset in making the transition to the collegiate level.
“Training-wise, she was more ready than 90 percent of the swimmers out there,” Freeman said. “She had a coach who prepared her very well.”
Great preparation and the Iowa meet aside, Smedstad’s first season has been typical of a freshman — steady yet unspectacular — complete with a slow start at a new school and swimming program.
“She trained very well,” said Assistant Coach Terry Nieszner, “but she was a little cautious, not really knowing what to expect or if she could do it.”
Smedstad also acknowledged having some difficulty early on in dealing with the unfamiliarity of college academics.
By consulting teammates for assistance and using other resources to help get her academics in place, Smedstad got through the fall quarter and has begun to find her groove.
There is no time like the present for success when your career will only last four years, and Smedstad’s meet versus Iowa could prove to be a starting point for a great career.
At any rate, Saturday’s meet was at least a declaration of Smedstad’s intent to succeed, and a chance to take a quick breath before going back under.