Experienced women head to NCAAs

Eleven of Minnesota’s 12 swimmers in the NCAA championships have competed there before.

Samuel Gordon

The Minnesota womenâÄôs swimming and diving team will head down to the University of Texas next week for the NCAA Championships with a significant asset âÄî experience.

Of the 12 athletes making the trip, six will be competing in their third championships and five in their second, leaving only one rookie.

âÄúTheyâÄôre going to the meet with expectations. TheyâÄôre not going to experience the meet; theyâÄôre going there to perform and to really have an opportunity to do something athletically at the meet,âÄù co-head coach Kelly Kremer said of his teamâÄôs experience. âÄúI think that experience is vital.âÄù

One of the teamâÄôs veterans is senior Jillian Tyler.

Tyler is coming off a historic Big-Ten championships in which she became just the 12th swimmer in conference history to win the Big Ten championship four consecutive times when she won the 100-yard breaststroke.

The All-American finished fourth nationally in the event at last yearâÄôs NCAA Championships with a time of 59.63, a far cry from the school record of 58.08 she clocked at this yearâÄôs Big Ten championships. In addition to being a school record, that time is also the fastest recorded in the nation this season.

âÄúJill has had such an outstanding career at Minnesota. At NCAAs, sheâÄôs consistently been up there,âÄù Kremer said. âÄúItâÄôs not a surprise that JillâÄôs sitting where she is, and weâÄôre just excited to see how she can close out her career, hopefully on a really high note.âÄù

Tyler isnâÄôt the only Minnesota athlete looking to do well at nationals.

Junior Ashley Steenvoorden is seeded fifth in the 500-yard freestyle. The 2011 Big Ten champion placed 18th at last yearâÄôs nationals with a time of 4:42.70. SheâÄôs already clocked a time of 4:37.66 this season.

Kremer said the team has been using the last month to learn from the conference championships and sharpen up in preparation for nationals.

âÄúI think weâÄôre going to see a group of athletes thatâÄôs going to really enjoy the experience and have a great time; and usually, when athletes are having fun doing what theyâÄôre doing, they perform at a really high level,âÄù he said.

âÄúIâÄôm expecting to see us have a great, great meet.âÄù

While the swimming championships wonâÄôt kick off until next Thursday, the NCAA Diving Championships are set to start tomorrow.

Junior Kelci Bryant is the defending national champion at the 3-meter dive.  If she were to repeat, it would be yet another title to add to her résumé. The former Olympian has put together quite a winter, winning the 1-meter dive and placing sixth in the 3-meter at the USA Diving Winter Championships.

Senior Drew Brown, meanwhile, will represent the menâÄôs team at the diving championships this weekend. The All-American finished 13th at last yearâÄôs nationals in the 1-meter dive. HeâÄôs coming off a Big Ten championships at which he was the runner-up in the 3-meter dive.