Gophers hope to lose rust from long break

by Brian Stensaas

Coming off of its annual winter training trips to Hawaii and Texas, Minnesota’s women’s swimming and diving team needed a meet last week.
Coach Jean Freeman said her team finished break with a positive outlook on the rest of the season. But what she couldn’t forsee was a cancelled meet against Iowa which left the Gophers without a competitive meet for 28 days.
For Freeman, it’s been too long.
“As a team, we were disappointed. We really wanted that meet and weren’t able to have it,” she said. “Without meets, it’s really tough to see where people are at.”
Perhaps a positive out of the drought in competition is the fact that the team had an extra few weeks of rigorous practice, an added training trip of sorts.
“It’s been tough, but I think that we will do fine this weekend,” Katy Christoferson said of the lull between meets. “We are more excited about it. In the beginning of the season, we had a meet almost every weekend, now we have had more time to think about it.”
Freeman said that from this point forward, everything the team does is in some way affiliated with larger meets held in coming months. On the Gophers’ radar is the Big Ten championships in three weeks, which makes this weekend’s meet against three Big Ten teams even more important.
The 14th-ranked Gophers will host No. 13 Wisconsin and unranked Purdue and Illinois at the Aquatic Center this weekend. The weekend marks the third time this season the Gophers and Badgers will have a go at each other. Minnesota edged Wisconsin at both earlier occasions, but the two haven’t met head-to-head.
Meanwhile, the Illini participated in the Minnesota Invitational in November and Purdue has yet to be introduced to this year’s Gophers.
According to Freeman, despite the Gophers having a successful fall semester of swimming and diving, Wisconsin was better and therefore is one spot ahead of Minnesota in the polls. But meet points are not scored in national rankings.
“Rankings are rankings and dual meets are dual meets,” Freeman said. “I’m hoping that Wisconsin being ahead of us (in the rankings) gives us some added motivation.”
One spot where Minnesota has an upper hand is in the breaststroke events. Kelsey Hegener has already earned NCAA consideration times in the 100- and 200-yard events. She also has faster times against Wisconsin in the same two events.
“Coming off of the training trip, I felt really good and strong in the water,” Hegener said. “I’ve improved a ton this season and I’m really excited for this weekend.”
Competition gets underway tonight at 6 p.m.

Brian Stensaas covers swimming and diving and welcomes comments at [email protected]