Unlikely champ’s

David La

Student-athletes rarely have an easy time selecting a college to attend. The weighing of pros and cons about numerous details can make the process tedious and frustrating.
For Beth Shimanski, her decision on whether to come to the University was simple at first — no thanks.
A three-sport athlete from Hutchinson, Minn., Shimanski’s first love was basketball. But she caught the attention of Gophers women’s swimming coach Jean Freeman with a win at the Minnesota State High School championship meet, and thus the inquiries began.
But assistant coach Terry Nieszner’s initial calls to Shimanski were met with the same curt responses: Forget it, nope, no way.
“I called to see if she was interested in coming to Minnesota,” Nieszner said. “I found out that basically she wasn’t interested in even taking to me.”
“She still gives me crap because she said I was so rude on the phone. ‘No, I don’t want to come on a recruiting trip. No, I don’t need any information,'” Shimanski said.
Shimanski’s anti-swimming stances began to soften, and the persistent Gophers coaches eventually convinced her to attend Minnesota in fall 1995.
Any doubts she may have had about swimming at the collegiate level were done away with when Shimanski became a Big Ten champion as a member of the 200-medley relay as a freshman.
Although she would not be a Big Ten event champion again, Shimanski has shown the persistence in her sport that her coaches showed in recruiting her, and with that has come improvement.
“Each year at Big Ten’s I’ve gotten my lifetime best,” Shimanski said.
Prior to this season, Shimanski was named co-captain of the team. Her interest in this role belied the less-than-enthusiastic attitude toward swimming she showed as an incoming freshman.
“She earned (captain status) by her performance at championship meets,” Freeman said. “Right from the get-go, she just latched on to the role.”
Her role as the team’s sideline sparkplug was confirmed this season at the Minnesota Invitational in October.
“During the meet no one was doing cheers,” Shimanski said. “Jean came over and asked, ‘Why aren’t you doing cheers?’ They all said, ‘Well, Beth’s not here.'”
Shimanski will be in Athens, Ga., on March 18-20 to compete in her final NCAA meet. She’ll swim individually in the 100-meter backstroke, as well as the 200- and 400-medley relays.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Shimanski said. “I’m glad I picked swimming.”
With three All-America honorable mentions, a Big Ten relay championship and the co-captaincy of Minnesota’s first ever Big Ten champion team, Shimanski has repaid Freeman and Neiszner in full for the recruiting hassles four years ago.