Sept. 30, 2013
The University of Minnesota Men's swimming and diving team officially begin its 2013-14 season this weekend. With a non-conference dual meet against Arizona State scheduled on Oct. 5 at the Aquatics Center, the team is gearing up for an exciting start. Gophersports.com caught up with head coach Kelly Kremer to preview the upcoming season.
What are your expectations for the 2013-14 season?
"I talked to the team and we all agreed that we have a lot to be excited about. We took a nice step last year. We went from 24th in the NCAA from the previous season to 18th in 2013. Coming into this season we know we are going to take another step forward we just do not know what that is going to be in terms of placing. The incoming freshman class, at least on paper, is probably one of the most strong and deep recruiting classes we have brought on in years. What they end up doing, we will ultimately find out, but it is cause for a lot of excitement. It also brings with it a lot of expectations, however."
What types of leadership does this senior class have?
"Derek Toomey was a captain last year and he provided such great leadership. I always tell him that I think one of the biggest honors is when your teammates select you as one of their captains and one of their leaders. So that just says everything about Derek and the kind of leader that he was where they elected him again. I think our seniors did, have done, and will continue to do such a great job of helping us with this transition of what we went through from being separate programs to a combined program. They have really led the team."
There is a very large class of 14 freshmen coming in this year, what will they bring to the team?
"Jakub Maly, our young man from Austria, he has been on the international stage. He was 11th on the short course world championships so he is a great swimmer but he also brings that experience that comes with constantly competing with the best in the world. That rubs off pretty quick on guys around him so that is exciting. Daryl Turner from Colorado is just another one where we just needed a backstroker on the men's side to really get our relays off to a good start. He will help us individually but really he is going to help us with relays too. Nick Hatanaka, he is another really versatile swimmer. We graduated two really great breaststrokers last year so while you never really can fill anybody's shoes, we do have a void there in. So we need someone to come in and do that job and Nick is a good candidate for that. And then we have some guys like Ian Gordon where we need to plug some guys in the sprint relays and fill those roles and I think he is also a good candidate to help us in that too. And I could keep going , there are 14 men who I think their best swimming is in front of them. And also with all of these guys, their improvement curve is going in the right direction. Basically we have a very exciting year ahead of us."
Who are you looking forward to competing against this year?
"Everybody. We have such a good schedule we are really lucky that Arizona State from the PAC 12 is coming in right away. That will be fun for us because we do not see them in dual-meet action so that will be new. And then the Florida men are coming in the next weekend, so right away the first two weeks of the season we see great competition and then it just doesn't stop. We go to Wisconsin, we go to Iowa, we get into Big Ten competition there. We are also competing against North Carolina State this year which is a new dual meet for us. The North Carolina State men last year were so good. We really have great competition from start to finish this year leading to the NCAA Championships so I am looking forward to competing against everybody, it is going to be a lot of fun."
What can the team improve on this season?
"I will just give you an example: We competed against the Michigan men last year early in the season and did not win a single event. So we have an opportunity there right away to start the season and come in and see if we can start picking up some dual-meet wins against a team that ultimately won the Big Ten Championships. I want to see that type of competitiveness so that we can stand up against anybody and win some events. And compete a little bit better from start to finish so that we are prepared for NCAAs."
What is the energy on the team upon starting the season?
"Well really good. In fact the team did some team building retreats a couple weeks ago and the reports back were that they felt so much closer than they did a year ago at this time. Again you ask about leadership and I think that just goes with the leadership of the team. I have not had a chance to really do anything with this group yet so we have not even officially started yet so it has been up to the team and they really have started to pull things together. We are not all on the same page yet but we are on the same chapter. It has been the kind of start that you want to have if you want to have a successful season. I feel good about it."
Big Ten Championships and NCAAs are away this year for the men, what is it like swimming at other schools for such important competitions?
"There is a comfort when it comes to swimming at home. You go to your locker room and your team room and everybody just feels at home. The crowd too is just bigger, we have so many alumni in the twin cities that they take advantage with those opportunities just to come and watch those competitions and just come to support us. We had two sides to the pool last year at the Big Ten Championships where most teams just have a little section. The women's team is hosting Big Ten's this year so with the men's standpoint I like when the women are at home because they get the excitement of seeing all these teams come in and seeing all these fans come in with the electric atmosphere and it just gets them more and more excited to get to those competitions even though they are on the road. So I think the way this season is setting up is working really well for Minnesota and for us."
US Nationals Start on Tuesday
Eleven Golden Gophers, including several program record holders, will compete in Indianapolis this week.
Gophers Receive CSCAA Scholar All-America Recognition
Both the men's and women's teams earned academic distinction from the coaches association.
Former swim coach Eckelkamp Passes Away
Gopher Athletics is saddened to learn that former assistant men's swimming and diving coach Steve Eckelkamp has passed away at his home on June 10, in Mount Juliet, Tenn.