Freshman swimmers making a real splash

by Matt Perkins

Minnesota’s women’s swimming and diving co-coach Kelly Kremer said his team is getting more and more confident with each competition.

But he also remarked that it’s a building process, and that the Gophers “are going to be real good.”

But perhaps Minnesota’s women are closer to being good than expected.

In fact, they might already be there thanks to this year’s phenomenal freshman class.

“We have so many freshmen who are stepping up and contributing this year,” Kremer said. “You can go right down the row and each of them has been top notch in and out of the water.”

The Gophers have 15 freshmen on their 2005-2006 roster, and you’d be hard-pressed to find one who hasn’t excelled this season.

And that’s making the seniors’ job much more manageable.

“These seniors have really appreciated it,” Kremer said. “It’s nice to know they can count on the freshmen to perform, because we know our seniors are going to do their job.”

Of the Gophers 15 freshmen, none has shown signs of greatness like Yuen Kobayashi.

A distance swimmer, Kobayashi has done everything from the 1,650-yard freestyle to the 100 free this season, with her most success coming at the 1,000 and 500 free events.

In duals this season, Kobayashi has three first-place finishes in the 1,000 free and four first-place finishes in the 500 free.

“She is going to take us to the next level ” where we want to be,” co-coach Terry Nieszner said. “She is a very impressive swimmer and she knows how to win.”

Maybe she knows how to win a bit too well.

Fellow freshman Christine Jennings has two first-place finishes in the 1,000 free and one in the 500 free, but between the two events she has four second-place finishes behind Kobayashi.

And that one-two punch could serve the Gophers well come Big Ten Championships.

Kobayashi said her accomplishments thus far have been made possible because of the strong support from the

Gophers’ true team leaders ” the seniors.

“They’ve done a lot for mental support,” Kobayashi said. “They did a lot of great things to help me with experience.”

On the diving board, the Gophers have freshman Erica Schiffler, and all she’s done this season is win three times on the 3-meter board and once on the 1-meter board.

“Erica has been incredible for us,” Gophers diving coach Jason Baumann said. “Any time you have a freshman performing at that rate, you’re in good shape.”

Another freshman who has tasted victory this season is Stacy Busack. Busack won the 50 free with a time of 23.74 on Saturday against Ohio State.

Busack also is part of the Gophers A team in the 400 free relay alongside fellow freshmen Meredith McCarthy and Jenny Shaughnessy and Gophers senior co-captain Sarah Perrott.

And freshman Erin Holtmeyer is on the A team for the 200 medley.

Although it’s uncertain which Minnesota freshman will make the greatest impact at the Big Ten Championships this season, there is no doubt in the Gophers minds that they will have success soon.

“We know that this team is going places,” Kremer said. “Like I said, it’s only a matter of time.”