Rapid reaction: women claim 2013 Big Ten swimming and diving championship

by Nate Gotlieb

The Gophers won their second-consecutive Big Ten championship Saturday night.

The celebration was on as soon as the Gophers 400-yard freestyle relay touched the wall in the final event of the night.  Even Goldy got in on it and jumped into the pool with the team.  

The No. 12 Gophers won 10 of 21 events at the championships, claimed 45 top-10 finished and had eight first team All-Big Ten honorees.  The team accrued the highest team score at a Big Ten championship (831.5 points) since 1996.  

Here's some reaction from players and coaches on their Big Ten title:

The Gophers won the 2012 Big Ten championship at the University of Iowa, but this year's was more fun than last year, senior captain Haley Spencer said.  

"Last year was a lot of fun, but it was just different [this year]," she said.  "Last year, it was about making sure that the seniors going out got a Big Ten championship.  This year we already had won, so it was just about dominating."

The underclassmen played a key role for the Gophers, accounting for 31 of the team's 45 top-10 finishes.  Head women's coach Terry Nieszner credited that success to upperclassmen leadership.

"I think that really shows the maturity and the leadership of our team," Niezner said.  "It's just so nice to have our juniors and seniors with the experience they have that this isn't too big of a meet for any of them.  I don't think any of our freshmen were intimidated at all.  It's just another day at the pool."

The Gophers sophomore class was especially strong, collecting 22 top-10 finishes and winning two individual titles.  The class is a close group, according to sophomore Tori Simenec.

"We have the time of our lives," she said.  "Ever since we showed up to campus, we have been best friends, as cheesy as that sounds.  We work hard, and we have fun and we love what we do."

The Gophers hope that their success at the Big Ten championships will translate into a strong showing at NCAA championships next month in Indianapolis, Ind.  Nieszner is confident that the team will have success there.  

"We're going to go back to work on Monday, and we're going to prove that the Big Ten can make an impact nationally, and we intend to be in the top-10 at NCAAs," she said.

Head men's and women's coach Kelly Kremer called the team's performance this week one of the best in Minnesota history and in the history of the conference.  

"We thought coming in here we had one of the best teams we ever put together," he said.  "In a Big Ten championship, this is probably the best performance that a women's teams put together, maybe not just in Minnesota history but in the Big Ten.  Now we have to go to NCAAs and do it all over again and see where we rank in terms of Minnesota teams in NCAA history.  But I sure like the team we have going there in a few weeks.  It's a heck of a team."