Gophers play host to Minnesota Invitational today through Sunday at Aquatic Center

The women are 2-0 and looking strong; the men are ranked as high as ever, at No. 6.

Dan Miller

Senior Minnesota women’s swimmer Katy Coombe thought about it for a few seconds and then concluded.

“I think we’ll surprise ourselves,” Coombe predicted of her 200-yard freestyle relay team’s debut. “But the first time you swim together, you never know.”

Coombe and the relay team will highlight the Gophers’ three-day Minnesota Invitational starting today at noon through Sunday at the University Aquatic Center.

The meet features Iowa, Purdue, Wisconsin and Division II and III teams.

The team of Coombe, Sarah Perrott, Sara Vine and Jennifer Hasling broke the school record in the event last season and is hoping to do it again.

“We’re all stronger from last season,” Coombe said. “And we swam together all of last season, so that definitely plays to our advantage.”

The group doesn’t even need to talk about its goal of qualifying for the NCAA Championships. It just knows.

The foursome missed the cut last season and is bent on making sure that doesn’t happen again.

“That was what we were shooting for all last season,” Vine said. “It’s hard to tell right now where we’ll be at because we haven’t come together. But I think we’ll be right up there.”

As a team, the Gophers (2-0) have already beaten Iowa State and Iowa this season and are going into their own invitational on a high note.

“We have several swimmers who are starting this season with the same kinds of performances they had at the Big Ten Championships last season, and that’s a great way to start this year,” Gophers co-head coach Terry Nieszner said.

The team goal is to maintain last season’s improvement and eventually climb up in the Big Ten’s hierarchy.

Michigan, Indiana, Penn State and Wisconsin finished ahead of the Gophers last season the Big Ten Championships.

Minnesota ended the season with a 35th-place finish at the NCAA Championships and was ranked 25th in the final College Swimming Coaches Association of America poll.

Coach Kelly Kremer said he is hoping the Gophers build on that.

“Our long-term goal is to be competitive with those schools,” Kremer said. “But you have to be concerned with what you can control with your team. And once that happens, I think you will be competing with (the top Big Ten) teams.”

No. 6 men also in Invite

After climbing up to sixth in the national rankings – its highest point in school history – Minnesota’s men’s swimming and diving team will compete on the men’s side of the Minnesota Invitational beginning today at noon.

The Gophers are ranked sixth in the College Swimming Coaches Association of America poll after moving ahead of Arizona.

The Gophers are the defending Big Ten champions and will be joined in the three-day meet by Wisconsin, Iowa and Purdue.

Minnesota narrowly lost to then-fourth-ranked Florida 153-147 on Oct. 29 and then cruised past North Carolina and Virginia Tech in a triple dual meet Nov. 5-6.