Oct. 20, 2011
Gophersports.com caught up with Minnesota men's head swimming coach Dennis Dale to preview the 2011-12 season. The Golden Gophers open the year with an intrasquad meet Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. at the University Aquatic Center.
What are the team's strengths and weaknesses heading into the 2011-12 season?
Dennis Dale: "Coming into this year we are very well aware of our strengths. Sprints have always been the strength of Minnesota men's swimming, so we are going to capitalize on that and utilize our sprinters in the freestyle sprint. We are also looking strong in the breaststroke and excellent in diving. Since last season we have strengthened our distance freestyle, so we are looking forward to this event. We are not as deep as we would like to be in the butterfly, but we are pretty solid up top. Our only question mark on the season is backstroke, because we are very young in backstroke. All of our backstroke swimmers are freshmen, so it will be interesting to see how they adjust to the collegiate events."
Which upperclassmen do you see stepping up as leaders?
DD: "Our three captains will definitely be leaders on this team. Starting with Zach Bolin, who is a NCAA veteran and a freestyler. He has been a great leader on the team and we are expecting big things from him this season. In addition to Zach, we have Matt Papenfuss who is a Big Ten scorer in the middle distance freestyle. He is a very hard worker and a strong leader. Also, we have senior Nathan Jobe who transferred to Minnesota his junior year. He is a sprint freestyler and we are depending on him to do great things for us in our relays this year. In addition to our captains we have Derek Toomey and Kyler Van Swol who both have NCAA experience under their belts. We also have two excellent breaststrokers returning in Jared Anderson and Josh Hall, who were Big Ten finalist a year ago."
Who are the newcomers we need to keep our eyes on?
DD: "We have some very important freshmen, because of our 38 swimmers on the team, 18 are freshmen. Max Cartwright is going to be a player for us for sure. In addition to Max, we have Felix Samuels who looks like he is going to be on our sprint free relays. We are expecting huge things from CJ Smith, who is an outstanding distance swimmer, as well as Andrew Hartbarger and Brandon Hatanaka, who are going to be some of our mainstays in the individual medley. As far as backstroke goes, we have a wrath of backstrokes which we are expecting to step up. This includes Carl Newenhouse, Chris Johnson, Andre Wilt and a really strong sprint backstroke for us is Jimmy Rafter, who was the Minnesota State High School champion last year."
Who is your biggest competition going to be this year?
DD: "Our biggest competition is going to be Michigan and Ohio State. Those are the two strongest teams in the Big Ten. We need to beat them if we want to win the Big Ten Championship this year. Indiana and Purdue also have very solid returning teams."
What are your team goals?
DD: "We would like to improve upon last year's Big Ten finish. We were fourth last year and there isn't a reason we shouldn't move up. We have the ability to contend for the Big Ten Championship and we would like to do that. Also, we would like keep the streak going and be in top at the NCAA's, like we have been for what seems like a century."
What does the intrasquad meet entail?
DD: "We divide our team up into two squads, we have the Maroon team who will be coached by coach Tramel, and we have a Gold squad in which I will be coaching. This is usually one of the most exciting meets for our team, especially in terms of providing them bragging rights. Last year, the Gold team won the meet and broke the Maroon team's five-year winning streak. So, both teams are anxious to earn the win back for this season. A definite good matchup to watch during this meet will be backstroke. It's going to be very interesting to see which of the freshmen steps to the forefront and makes our travel squad. The race between Max Cartwright, Josh Hall and Jared Anderson should be a nice exciting race. Also, in the sprint freestyles, we have two Big Ten finalists, Zach Bolin and Derek Toomey, going head-to-head, which should make for an exciting battle to watch."
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