Go Gophers! Weiland led off the relay for Minnesota.
Go Gophers!
Weiland led off the relay for Minnesota.
Go Gophers!

Feb. 21, 2013

Last season, the Golden Gopher 200-meter freestyle relay team jokingly referred to lane one as “lane win.” Tonight at the Big Ten Championships, that lane lived up to its nickname. Minnesota broke the school, meet and Big Ten records in the relay with a time of 1:28.43.

Sophomore Rebecca Weiland, junior Erin Caflisch, sophomore Blake Zeiger and freshman Lauren Votava gave the Gophers their first event victory of the Thursday evening session. Three of this year’s young relay team members competed in the 200 free relay at last year’s Big Ten meet, finishing third.

“It motivated us, “Weiland said. “Just taking last year’s experience and putting it into this year was amazing. Everybody dropped time and everything. It’s so exciting.”

The Gophers came into Big Tens with the seventh-fastest seed time, putting them in lane one for the championship heat. Being on the end of the pool did not bother them.

“We like to focus on our own race,” Caflisch said. “I definitely think we’re aware of our surroundings, but lane one has always been kind of the lucky lane for us, I guess. …I think in general it’s about us. We’ve put in the work and our team is behind us, so we’re ready to go no matter what lane we’re in.”

Minnesota chopped more than three seconds off of its seed time. The Gophers always believed in themselves, but as the race went on, even they might have been a little surprised by how well they were doing.

“It was crazy,” Zeiger said. “There was so much energy. Right before I went, Becca was like, ‘Blake, we have a chance at winning this!’ It was so exciting and so motivating to know that we had the chance.”

The Gophers’ freshman anchor, Votava, had a lead when she dived into the pool. She held off Penn State’s fourth swimmer to preserve first place. Votava took the assignment to anchor in stride when she found out. But when she saw the No. 1 next to Minnesota on the scoreboard after touching the wall?

“I almost had a heart attack,” she said.

Minnesota went on to win two more event titles Thursday and take a commanding lead into day three of the championships. The record-breaking performance by the 200 freestyle relay team set the tone perfectly for the evening.