Minnesota falls to California in opening dual meet

The Gophers won just two out of 14 events against one of the country’s best teams.

Brian Deutsch

Even though the Minnesota women’s swimming and diving team lost to California-Berkley on Friday, it’s not exactly dead in the water.

Although the Gophers lost their season opener to the Bears 188.50-108.50, both of Minnesota’s co-head coaches said they felt like the weekend was a success.

“This was our first dual meet of the season, and you never know what to expect going in,” coach Kelly Kremer said. “Our girls really did an outstanding job of rising to the challenge.”

The Bears took 14 out of 16 events Friday, leaving the Gophers with two of their own, winning the 200-yard freestyle relay and the 500-yard freestyle.

“We were very happy with the performances of our team,” Minnesota’s other head coach, Terry Nieszner said. “Cal is a better team than us and they definitely beat us soundly score-wise.”

Kremer said the Bears are one of the front runners to win the national title and to call them a good team would be an understatement.

The duo of Kremer and Nieszner took over the swimming program last year. Since then, they have seen a lot of improvement in the program.

“(The coaches) are a perfect match. I couldn’t ask for two better coaches,” junior Roxane Akradi said. “They know what everyone needs, and they work well with each other and the team.”

Minnesota dominated the 200-yard free relay, claiming first place and tying for second place as well.

“A lot of the girls stepped up and put up times that were a lot faster than last year,” Akradi said. “Overall, the meet was a big success for the entire team.”

The team of Akradi, senior Jennifer Hasling, and sophomores Stacy Busack and Erin Holtmeyer won the event with a time of 1:33.84.

“As a team, we did really well, we posted good times,” Hasling said. “I think we did everything we were hoping to do.”

Another Minnesota group, featuring seniors Jennifer Chang and Krista Kezbers, sophomore Meredith McCarthy and freshman Castina Wabeke, stayed close to its winning teammates, and tied for second place with a time of 1:37.93.

“Our team did an outstanding job,” Nieszner said. “Some kids had lifetime best performances.”

Sophomore Yuen Kobayashi took home an individual title for the Gophers, winning the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:50.66.

Though the loss didn’t leave much for Minnesota to be proud of, Hasling said the meet taught the team a lot about itself and how far it has come in two years.

“I think Cal was definitely motivating and encouraging; they’re supposed to be one of the top teams in the NCAA,” she said. “They gave us perspective of what to shoot for. The level of competition was a good experience to go through.”

The Gophers finished sixth at the Big Ten Championships last year and owned a 7-1 record in dual meets. Coach Nieszner and Kremer both said they hope competing against teams like Cal will help Minnesota improve on that mark.

“We going to be a team to be reckoned with,” Nieszner said. “We compete well, and we’ve got women that swim very well.”