Young swimmers finish 21st at NCAAs

Matt Perkins

A sixth-place finish at the 2005 Big Ten Championships left room for improvement for the Minnesota’s women’s swimming and diving team.

The Gophers weren’t about to fall into the depths of the Big Ten, nor were they going to tread water with another middle-of-the-pack finish.

Instead, the 23rd-ranked Gophers followed a second place finish at the Big Tens last month with a 21st-place team finish at the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga., on Saturday night.

So Minnesota certainly has come a long way in 13 months.

“It’s just a tribute to the women on our team,” co-coach Kelly Kremer said. “They did an outstanding job and really believed in themselves all year by taking their game to the highest level.”

Boding well for the Gophers is the fact that eight of 10 of the women who competed at the NCAAs will be returning for at least one more year with Minnesota.

Freshmen distance swimmers Yuen Kobayashi and Christine Jennings headlined a poised freshman cast for Minnesota, and they ended their years with 10th- and 17th-place finishes in the 1650-yard freestyle, respectively.

Fellow freshmen Stacy Busack, Meredith McCarthy and Jenny Shaughnessy worked with senior Sarah Perrott to finish 15th for Minnesota in the 400-free relay.

And although much of the attention is given to some of the younger names on Minnesota’s roster, they will miss the likes of Perrott and fellow seniors Katie Wind and Kate Hardt.

Wind clocked in a time of 1:58.87 to finish 24th overall in the 200 backstroke.

“She ends her career as the best 200-backstroke swimmer in our school’s history,” Kremer said. “That’s an outstanding way to finish your career, and I think she finished the way she wanted to.”

Hardt, who did not compete at NCAAs, was a team leader alongside Wind throughout their careers at Minnesota. And their exit makes room for one of the Gophers freshman starters to step into a leadership position.

“It’s going to come down to the leadership of the people returning to our team,” Kremer said. “It comes down to those who want to strive for an even higher level.”

Kremer expects the team to jump right on board, put in the extra work and be in the position next year to finish even better at the Big Tens and the NCAAs.

“Again it comes down to the leadership of the people returning,” Kremer said. “If they decide that they want to keep this momentum going and run with it, then I see us making another big leap next year.”

Divers fall just short

Minnesota’s men’s and women’s divers took to the boards last weekend for a shot at qualifying for the NCAA Championships.

The Gophers divers had a strong showing at the NCAA Diving Zones in Columbus, Ohio, but fell short of qualifying anybody.

The encouraging results saw women’s junior Holly Jakits lead the Gophers with a sixth-place finish, followed by freshmen Erica Schiffler and Brianna Hubbard, who finished seventh and ninth, respectively.

“Holly put together some great dives, and if we had one more spot from our zone, she would have made it,” diving coach Jason Baumann said. “It’s encouraging, but it’s still frustrating to come up a little bit short.”

The Gophers men, junior Shaun Kennedy and senior John Schmidt, both reached the finals but also missed out on a chance to compete at the NCAA Championships.

Kennedy finished fourth in his zone and Schmidt 11th, neither qualifying for the NCAA Championships next weekend.

But that doesn’t hurt Minnesota’s men’s swimming and diving team’s chances of placing well.

“We thought Shaun presented an outside chance of making it, and he did really well,” coach Dennis Dale said. “We’re pleased with all the performances we got, but we were prepared for what happened considering our zone’s strength.”

Next season though, the Gophers are hoping to make their way over that hump.

“We did a good job of having good performances and making top 18,” Baumann said. “But where do we go from here? We are looking forward to next year, so we can go from being close, to actually getting ourselves into the meet.”