Star swimmers to visit U for Mpls. Grand Prix

The Gophers will compete against Olympians like Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin this weekend.

Megan Ryan

The Gophers swimming teams have competed against Big Ten teams like Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa so far this season.

This weekend, the Gophers will compete with Olympians.

Gold medalists like Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin will come to the University Aquatic Center on Friday and compete through Sunday in USA Swimming’s Minneapolis Grand Prix.

The event kicks off a six-city tour that will stretch from Florida to California in the next eight months.

“It really is designed to bring in really the best swimmers in the United States,” head men’s and women’s coach Kelly Kremer said. “And then it also is open so you can get people from around the world.”

Kremer said it’s important for the University to have household names like Lochte and Franklin as opponents, particularly coming off an Olympic year.

“For our student-athletes, it’s a chance to really compete against … some of the best,” Kremer said, “and we have people that can do that.”

Sophomore Carl Newenhouse said he is excited for the Olympic competition.

“Being able to swim against those big names means … we can compete with the best,” Newenhouse said. “Especially in [preliminary rounds] when a lot of the pros are trying to save up energy for finals, you can race them and potentially beat them.”

The preliminary morning session and final evening session is a welcome change from dual meets, Newenhouse said.

“Dual meets are just one day and two hours and really, really quick. You don’t have a lot of break in between your events,” Newenhouse said. He said the different format will help the athletes swim better.

Kremer said the schedule will help the team practice for the Big Ten and NCAA championships, which use the same format.

He said he wants to see consistently great swimming from his athletes throughout the three-day competition.

“Winning as a team isn’t the goal as much as just having the chance to really compete against elite-level athletes in a prelim-final format,” Kremer said.

Minnesota will have the strongest team because it has the most athletes, Kremer said.

Newenhouse, a self-proclaimed back-half swimmer, earned a thrilling comeback victory in the 200-yard backstroke against Iowa.

“I’m really looking forward to getting some momentum and getting a personal best this weekend,” Newenhouse said.

Several former Gophers swimmers will compete at the Grand Prix, including national team members David Plummer and Ashley Steenvoorden.

Divers take week off

The Gophers divers will take this week off from competition and instead focus on practice.

“I think we’ll go back to the basics training again because pretty much we’ve finished all the meets for first semester already,” head diving coach Wenbo Chen said.

While most of the team will work on conditioning, some will concentrate on recuperating.

Sophomore Jordan Lesser injured his toes the morning of the Iowa meet last Friday, and junior Sarah McCrady has been battling dizziness for the past few weeks, Chen said.

Even with the injuries and a lack of tough competition, Chen said his team has performed satisfactorily so far this season.

“We have won every single meet already, [but] we are still showing some areas we need to focus back again,” Chen said. “So it’s not quite consistent.”