Gophers head to Big Ten championships in Iowa

The team will try to best its fourth-place finish from last season.

Minnesota's Kierra Smith swims the 100-yard butterfly against Iowa State on Oct. 12, 2012, at the University Aquatic Center.

Daily File Photo, Ichigo Takikawa

Minnesota’s Kierra Smith swims the 100-yard butterfly against Iowa State on Oct. 12, 2012, at the University Aquatic Center.

Danny Chen

The Gophers are hoping to show improvement from their fourth-place finish last season.

And their chance to beat last year’s ending performance will come this week at the 2015 Big Ten championships in Iowa City, Iowa.

“I [would] like to finish top four again this year,” head coach Kelly Kremer said. “In other words, I would love to move up and not move down. The Big Ten is getting so competitive now, but you still want to be in the top of the mix.”

Minnesota finished 521 points behind first-place Michigan last year. Indiana and Ohio State rounded out the top-three.

The Gophers have tapered — or reduced their amount of work in practice — during the past two weeks, sophomore Jakub Maly said.

“Everybody tapers for this meet,” Maly said. “It’s just so intense for us to get NCAA cuts, or scoring the most points possible. So everybody will be at their best. It’s my favorite part of the year because from day-to-day, you are starting to feel better and better every single day.”

Maly competed in his first Big Ten championships last year where he placed fifth in the 400-yard individual medley, eighth in the 200-yard individual medley and sixth in the 800-yard freestyle relay. 

 “I always have a high expectation for [myself],” Maly said.  “So it’s kind of hard for me to evaluate it right after because I was looking high up [for NCAAs].  But looking back at it from now, I feel like I did really good, and it’s a big challenge to be even better this year.”

Kremer said Maly has been a tremendous leader from the get-go.

“He was a little older from the typical freshman, so that helped that he had high maturity,” Kremer said.  “Jakub leads in and out of the pool, and I expect nothing different this championship season.”

While Maly is going into his second Big Ten championships, senior C.J. Smith is attending his fourth.

In 2014, he took fourth in the 1650-yard freestyle with a time of 14:56.18 and 11th in the 500-yard freestyle at 4:19.98.

“[I’m] going to try not to think too hard about the time or placing,” Smith said.  “It just gets you stressed. Going into the championship season, I’m going to give it my all, and that’s the most important thing because we are all wearing the same cap.”

Smith said his team is ready to compete.

“We are ready to let the horses run wild and kind of show what Minnesota is all about,” Smith said.  “Not many people talk about Minnesota or mention how we are one of the powerhouse [teams].  We’ve got the guys this year, and we are excited to show people what we are capable of.”