Zeiger sisters make impact in the pool

Blake Zeiger is a senior, and her sister, Brooke, is a Gophers freshman.

David Nelson

After being homeschooled in her home state of Rhode Island, Blake Zeiger made a huge transition with her decision to attend the University of Minnesota and join nearly 29,000 other students.

A few years later, her sister, Brooke Zeiger, made the same decision.

While the change of scenery might have frightened some students, the Zeiger sisters’ performances in the pool show that the women from the smallest state in the country have had no trouble making the switch.

“They work extraordinarily hard,” head coach Kelly Kremer said. “They’re kind of what you want in a student-athlete. … They’re exactly what you’re looking for as a coach to build a program.”

However, the Zeigers weren’t always swimmers.

Senior Blake and freshman Brooke Zeiger traded their gymnastics leotards for swim caps and goggles when they were introduced to swimming about a decade ago.

“We were gymnasts first, and then I got hurt,” Blake Zeiger said. “We started on a summer [swimming] team. We both really liked it, so we decided to try club.”

Each of the sisters demonstrated the swim talent they inherited from their parents — both of whom raced for the University of Maine — early in their careers.

“It just clicked,” Brooke Zeiger said.

When the time came for Blake to make a college decision, Minnesota was in the back of her mind because she wanted to stay closer to home.

A phone call with Kremer changed that.

“It was really cool talking to Kelly on the phone,” Blake Zeiger said. “So I decided to give it a shot and go for a trip.”

When Blake arrived on campus, Kremer said he could foresee there being trouble with her transition.

“For Blake, that was a much tougher adjustment than she thought it might be her first year,” Kremer said. “But she got through first semester, and then she got her feet on the ground.”

Since then, Blake Zeiger has been a standout for Minnesota, posting three top-13 times at last year’s Big Ten championships.

“Her improvement curve is exactly what anybody would want,” Kremer said. “It’s literally been perfect.”

Now, Gophers fans get the opportunity to watch both Zeigers produce when Brooke dives into the pool.

“When you look at the scope of what Blake’s done here, it’s really incredible,” Kremer said. “And Brooke has all that in front of her still.”

In three meets this season, Brooke owns victories in seven races.

“[I’m] not surprised [by Brooke’s early success],” Kremer said. “We can put her in [any event], and she’ll just go right to it. I’m really happy that she’s done whatever we’ve asked her to do to this point.”

Blake Zeiger owns one individual event victory this season, as well as two victories as a member of relay teams.

While both Zeigers admitted they’re friendly with one another on dry land, they have a bit of a sibling rivalry in the pool.

“I could see her a couple of lanes over last Saturday when we were racing,” Brooke Zeiger said. “I did not want her to beat me.”

But a year from now, when her older sister graduates, Brooke won’t be able to keep as close of a watch on her pace.

While Blake might be behind her little sister in the rivalry when it comes to event victories this season, she has a strong resume that she’s built over the past three years.

“She’s been a multiple-time All-American and been in lots of finals at Big Tens,” Kremer said. “She’s so critical on the Gopher relays and [in] Gopher sprint relays that we’re sure going to miss her when she graduates.”