Gophers swim and dive poised for breakout 2020

The Gophers are poised for one of its best seasons in recent memory, but shut-down swimming facilities present a challenge to training.

Junior Erik Hunter competes in the 200 Yard Backstroke race during the Minnesota Invitational on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 at the Jean K Freeman Aquatic Center.

Ellen Schmidt

Junior Erik Hunter competes in the 200 Yard Backstroke race during the Minnesota Invitational on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 at the Jean K Freeman Aquatic Center.

Nolan O'Hara

Between key returners coming back in the fall and the addition of 26 incoming freshmen, the Gophers’ swimming and diving team is poised for a breakout 2020-2021 season. 

On the women’s side, the Gophers are coming off a sixth place finish in the Big Ten Championships, posting a 5-3 record in meets on the season. The men’s team placed eighth in the Big Ten Championships, after finishing the season with a 2-6 record in meets. Overall, Minnesota had nine student-athletes named CSCAA All-Americans, all of whom qualified for the NCAA Championships. The NCAA Championships were two of the many sporting events canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

However, with many student-athletes returning off their NCAA bids, others returning from Olympic years and the addition of 26 freshmen, the Gophers are poised for one of their best seasons in recent memory. 

“I’m beyond excited about it,” head coach Kelly Kremer said. “If we can keep everyone healthy and engaged, we’re going to be really, really good on both sides — as good as we’ve been in a very long time.”

The Gophers’ sizable 2020 class is particularly large compared to its typical recruiting classes. The 13 incoming freshmen on both the men’s and women’s teams exceeds the eight on each team Kremer usually brings in. Kremer expects many of the incoming freshmen to make an impact right out of the gate. 

“Overall, on both sides, I think [they are] probably two of the better classes we’ve ever brought in, and part of that is just the depth,” he said. “There’s so many really elite student-athletes. So that’s really exciting, and the quality of the class too.” 

While Kremer is excited to get the season going, one challenge facing the Gophers’ incoming class — and all returning student-athletes — is access to pools, as facilities are shut down across the nation. 

“You can’t just go out and go running every day and become a great swimmer or diver, you really have to do the sport. And so I think right now, our student-athletes are finding creative ways to try and simulate it a little bit,” Kremer said. “But at the end of the day, it provides a challenge. I think I probably speak for everybody when I say I just can’t wait to get back to normalcy where we can be on a pool deck again and help our student-athletes improve their craft.”

“Visualization is nice, but I could visualize slam-dunking a basketball. I’m still not going to be able to do it,” Kremer added. 

Despite the challenges brought on by lack of access to facilities, Kremer is excited for his teams to make some noise once they are able to return to the pools. Until then, Kremer and the Gophers are left with the anticipation of the upcoming season. 

“My expectations are as high as they can be right now. I just can’t wait to get it going and see it through,” Kremer said.