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Medley relay team will guide Gophers at Big Tens

The “mini-team” of Megan Moore, Keri Hehn, Juleen Rodakowski and Dana Baum, within the Minnesota swimming and diving team, compete together in the 400-yard medley relay.

The women swimming in this relay are representative of the experience and skill it will take for Minnesota to excel against the high-caliber competition of the Big Ten conference.

Each woman swimming her specialized stroke – backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle – will be swimming together vying for a spot among the top 12 relays in the nation. This should ensure qualification for the NCAA meet.

The 400-yard medley relay takes place on Friday, day three. The four different strokes of this relay and the level at which each woman will execute her specialized stroke personify what the Big Ten meet has in store for the Gophers.

Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., hosts the women’s swimming and diving Big Ten championship meet from Feb. 19-22.

Backstroke: Starting off

In order for these women to even consider competing in both the Big Ten and NCAA meets they had to put in the time.

“It took hours of hard work, practice every day, lifting weights, dry land training, abs,” said Moore.

And then it will come down to the start of the race. The starter will instruct the backstrokers to enter the water.

Moore will enter the water as her teammates cheer her on. Adrenaline will wash over her as she thinks about her start.

“The first day is always the hardest because you have nothing to base it off of,” Moore said. “You have to start from nothing and you have to start fast.”

Moore will be making her third Big Ten appearance. Her experience should help guide her with a clean start.

Breaststroke: Day Two

Before the swimmers even know it, the Big Ten meet will be underway and they will be on to the second leg of their race.

Much like the awkward, frog-like breaststroke, the second day is the hardest to judge the opposition.

Hehn will pick up this leg of the race. Her two previous NCAA appearances will help her evaluate where she’s at compared to the competition.

Day two has a mix of relay and individual competition. Wisconsin women have posted the top times in the 500 freestyle, 200 individual medley and 50 freestyle events being swum Thursday.

“I think that’s when the most excitement will be because that’s when everyone wants get up and race for the first time,” Rodakowski said.

Butterfly: Day Three

The most difficult stroke in the relay and most intense day of competition come next for the Gophers.

In her third Big Ten meet, Rodakowski will fly through the water making a difficult butterfly stroke look easy.

Minnesota will face a tough day with primarily individual competition. Wisconsin women, again, hold the top times in the conference in three of the five individual events that will be swum on Friday.

With one day left and two behind them, the women are tired and want to save a little of what’s left.

At this point in the relay, two women have swum and the final result has yet to be determined but things have changed as each leg progressed.

“We all work on our individual things as hard as we can and when it comes to the race it comes together,” Hehn said.

Freestyle: Bringing it home

Baum and the rest of her teammates will leave it all in the water on the last leg and last day of competition.

“If you have to drag me out of the water after my last event at least I knew I gave my all and didn’t have anything left,” Hehn said.

All Baum’s teammates can do is watch as the two-time NCAA veteran swims this leg in her fourth Big Ten meet.

“We’ve all done what we can and you say, ‘All right we’re doing well,’ but you just have to wait,” Rodakowski said.

Each day has different expectations and different pressures, as does each leg of the relay. The outcome of the race can change from leg to leg or day to day but the swimmers hope that won’t affect them.

“You try not to do it any differently (than any other meet) – you just have to get pumped and ready to go,” Baum said.

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