MINNEAPOLIS – Coming off a successful campaign in 2016-17, the Gophers return to the pool, looking to build on their success in the upcoming season. The Maroon and Gold were a perfect 9-0 in dual team meets, while posting an impressive fourth place finish at the Big Ten Championships. On the national stage, Minnesota finished 23rd at the NCAA Championships with 43 points. Minnesota enters the season ranked 21st in the CSCAA preseason polls.
“This is going to be an exciting year because of the unknowns when you have team that is so young,” said head coach Kelly Kremer.
The Gophers graduated 14 student-athletes, including All-Americans Matt Barnard, Paul Fair and Daryl Turner, but lots of talent returns including three All-Americans.
In the spotlight this season will be the returning 400 medley relay squad that captured a Big Ten bronze finish. Bowe Becker and Tuomas Pokkinen will look to replace Daryl Turner and Paul Fair on their relay following a 13th place finish (2:51.06) at the NCAA Championships.
The Gophers return 17 swimmers and divers from last season, while welcoming 17 newcomers. In the new comer column are transfers Warren Sexson from Denver and Harrison Baden from Hawai’i. Of the 86 personal records set last year, Gophers will return 53 personal records in the 17 student-athletes. Of the 17 newcomers, six received National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association (NISCA) All-American honors.
“When you look at a freshman class with very good experience for incoming first year students, there are still some unknowns. That’s exciting and that can lead to a big step forward for Minnesota,” said Kremer.
A young Gophers squad that consists of 14 freshman and eight sophomores will heavily rely on the senior leadership of Jan Hansen and Conner McHugh. Hansen last season set four individual personal records in various freestyle events. McHugh individually placed fourth at the Big Ten meet in the 100 breaststroke (52.44) and 200 breast (1:53.61), breaking both varsity records which he set last season. He also collected an 11th place finish at the NCAA Championship meet in the 100 breast (52.30) and 12th in the 200 breast (1:54.10).
At the Big Ten Championships, the Gophers had 19 student-athletes finish in the top-20 of their respective events. The Gophers will see 9 of those athletes return to the 2017-18 roster. Four records fell in Columbus last season, while for the second year in a row the Gophers qualified four relays for the NCAA Championships.
With another competitive Big Ten schedule the Gophers will be challenged early hosting Big Ten foes Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State on Friday, Nov. 3 and Saturday, Nov. 4. Following the Minnesota Invitational the Maroon and Gold will travel southwest to take on Hawai’i in Honolulu, Hawai’i. The Gophers will enjoy the rest of the regular season at home prior to hosting the Big Ten Championships meet February 21-24. The post season will wrap up inside Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center as Minnesota hosts the 2018 NCAA Championships March 21-24.
“Our men want to shine at home. There is a comfort level that comes with being in your own facility. It lets you focus on competing well,” explained Kremer.
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