U women get back into the swim of things

Ryan Schuster

Minnesota’s women’s swimming program is no stranger to success.
The Gophers have posted winning records in dual meets every season for the past 15 years. During that same span the team has finished lower than fourth in the Big Ten only three times and has placed in the top 25 at the NCAA championships nine times.
So it comes as no surprise that with one-third of the 1996-97 season under their belt, the No. 10 Gophers are still perfect with six wins in six tries. In fact the team’s 5-0 dual meet record and 6-0 overall mark is nowhere near as impressive as the 10-0 record both the 1976-77 and 1994-95 squads finished with.
Minnesota’s quick start and its three-week layoff between meets has the team pumped up for the upcoming weekend.
“Everybody is getting pretty excited for Kansas and the Gold Country Invite,” junior swimmer Olga Splichalova said. “We’re all excited to be back here starting school and swimming again.”
The Gophers swim at home against No. 19 Kansas tonight, then compete against Kansas, Northern Michigan, St. Cloud State, Mankato State, St. Olaf, Carleton and Concordia-Moorhead on Saturday at the Gold Country Invitational, which will be at the University Aquatic Center.
In both meets, the major stumbling block for Minnesota will be Kansas.
“We’re going to use Kansas to get back into the mode of meets,” Coach Jean Freeman said. “They are a very good team, but we don’t want to rest for the meet because (prior to this weekend) is the last time we’re going to be able to have any good training before the Big Tens.”
Despite the Gophers’ impressive record and top 10 national ranking, their major opponent this weekend is no slouch. Kansas is also undefeated this year at 3-0. The Jayhawks have also posted a 4-1 all-time mark versus Minnesota, which includes a 172-128 victory over the Gophers last year in Lawrence, Kan.
Kansas is the first ranked opponent the Gophers have faced since they swam against then-No. 23 Wisconsin at the Minnesota Invitational on Nov. 24. How the team responds to this weekend’s challenge should set the tone for the rest of the Gophers season and determine just how good they are.