Trip to Ohio State to provide Minnesota with stiff competition, new pool

Matt Perkins

Minnesota’s women’s swimming and diving team is preparing for this weekend’s Ohio State Invitational as if it were the Big Ten Championship.

And it’s not far from being just that.

Of the 12 teams competing at the invitational in Columbus, Ohio ” which is the site of this year’s Big Ten Championships ” six will be Big Ten schools.

The meet will serve as a small preview of the Feb. 15 Championships.

“I think the biggest thing is that it helps us to familiarize ourselves with our competition,” coach Kelly Kremer said. “We want to get used to them by seeing them.”

But it may be the nonconference teams that will best gauge where the Big Ten is compared with the rest of the nation.

Junior diver Holly Jakits said the Southeastern Conference teams will be tough competition.

“This meet is going to be extremely competitive,” Jakits said. “There will be teams not only from the Big Ten but from the SEC ” another strong conference.”

And the Gophers have an additional opponent to learn about this weekend outside the 11 team’s they are up against ” the pool.

Ohio State recently opened its new Bill and Mae McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion, and Kremer said he is not only anticipating seeing the new facility, but getting his team used to it before the Big Ten Championships.

“We’re really anxious to see it,” Kremer said. “Pools are pools but I think every pool has its own unique atmosphere. You want your athletes to be as comfortable as they can possibly be in any environment.”

Men set for challenge

Like the women, the No. 9 Minnesota men’s swimming and diving team’s competition at the Ohio State Invitational will serve as a championship preview.

But for the men, it may be a mini-preview of the NCAA Championships.

Five of the attending teams are ranked in the coaches’ poll, making for a championship-like atmosphere.

“We hope to have our best meet of the fall,” coach Dennis Dale said. “We’ve talked about this being our most important meet. We hope to come out of here with a couple of hard cuts ” a couple of “A’ times for the NCAA Championships and a lot of “B’ times.”