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Gophers return to Georgia Invitational with Bulldogs, Florida State waiting

Minnesota men’s swimming and diving coach Dennis Dale said Florida State has shaved and tapered early in preparation to swim against the Gophers and the rest of the field at the Georgia Invitational in Athens, Ga., starting today.

The seventh-ranked Gophers will be the highest-ranked team at the meet. But with the No. 24 Seminoles peaking early, the Gophers might face some tough competition.

“(The Seminoles) will be looking for their best times of the season and to make their NCAA cuts,” Dale said.

No. 16 Georgia, which hosts the tournament, could also be a contender after losing a reasonably close meet to top-ranked Auburn 145-96 on Nov. 12. In last year’s meet in Athens, Minnesota went down to the wire with the Bulldogs before winning 1201.50-1185.

Dale said the Gophers, even with good competition, are looking to have their best times of the season and prove that they are the best team at the meet.

“We have been pointing at this meet for a while,” Dale said. “We have made an investment this fall, and it is important that we prove to ourselves that we are as good as we think we are.”

The three-day meet’s schedule is identical to what the Gophers will see at the Big Ten Championships in February, and Dale said they will use it to their advantage in preparation for their conference meet.

“(The meet) will be an important training tool for us,” Dale said. “As opposed to a one- or two-day meet, our guys need to try and be as strong on the third day as they are for the first.”

The Gophers are ranked as high as they have ever been nationally and are set on proving it’s not a fluke.

“I think we are showing others the caliber of team we know we have,” Gophers senior captain Justin Mortimer said.

Prelims begin at 9 a.m. today, and the meet will conclude on Sunday with the last set of finals.

Women also in Georgia

Minnesota’s women’s swimming and diving team will also be in Athens going up against the top-ranked Bulldogs, who host the women’s Georgia Invitational.

“(The meet) will be a good test for us,” coach Terry Nieszner said. “We are just trying to build toward the Big Ten meet.”

The Gophers placed first in the Minnesota Invitational two weeks ago, but will face tough competition this weekend.

Men sign three recruits

Dale announced Thursday that he signed Evan Bernier, Michael Vergeront and Cole Young to national letters of intent.

Bernier is a native of Woodinville, Wash., and was a two-time state champion in the 100 butterfly. He chose Minnesota over Indiana, Southern California and Washington.

Vergeront, a senior at James Madison Memorial High School in Madison, Wis., was a state runner-up in the 100 butterfly and 200 freestyle.

Young, from Overland Park, Kan., is a six-time Junior Nationals qualifier.

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