Gophersports.com caught up with junior captain Jenny Shaughnessy following the University of Minnesota Big Ten Championship win in Columbus, Ohio. Shaughnessy and the Golden Gophers won their first Big Ten title since the 1999-2000 season and the first under co-head coaches Kelly Kremer and Terry Nieszner. Shaughnessy won the 400 individual medley and was a member of the winning 800 free relay, her third in her career.
Gophersports: It was your first Big Ten championship in your tenure and the school's third. How strong of a team were you in Columbus?
Jenny Shaughnessy: It was incredible. I’ve never been so excited and proud to be a Gopher. The team has grown into a tight-knit family over the course of this year, and that truly showed at this meet. The overwhelming support from the girls and coaches for each team member creates an environment in which it becomes hard not to succeed.
GS: Although Michigan won more events, the Gophers fielded more points on the weekend. What was the success of the Gophers' championship team?
JS: Going into the meet, we knew it was going to be extremely competitive. The meet, as a whole, has become so much faster over the past few years. I think one of the major sources of our success at the meet and throughout the season is the depth of the team. During the past couple of years, we have been weaker in a few events compared to other teams. This year, however, there really are no weak spots. Most importantly, however, all of the girls came into this meet with a high level of confidence and energy. We were able to maintain the energy level throughout the meet and build excitement after each successful swim.
GS: When did you as a team know you had the title wrapped up?
JS: During the meet, we tried not to focus too much on scoring and points, because sometimes scores can be misleading until all is said and done. Obviously, we were aware of the team scores because they were constantly displayed on the scoreboard. Our main focus is always to control the things that we have control over. I don't think any of us knew the absolute outcome until very close to the ending of the final session.
GS: You were a part of co-head coaches Kelly Kremer and Terry Nieszner's first big recruiting class and have now won a Big Ten title. How have each of the coaches prepared you and the team in building a successful program?
JS: I'm convinced we have one of the greatest pairs of coaches in the country. While both coaches bring unique strengths and characteristics to our program, they are similar in their passion for the sport and this team, along with their constant positive outlook. In a period of just a few years, Terry and Kelly have built the team into what it is at this point. I think the fact that they dedicate their lives to this team and truly care about us as more than just swimmers only heightens our motivation to succeed. It’s so fun to be a part of a team on the rise, and I cannot imagine myself anywhere else.
GS: You won your first individual title in the 400 IM and added your third relay win in the 800 free relay. How did it feel to win your first individual event of your career?
JS: At first, it was a bit of a shock. There were so many surprises at the meet, so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from other competitors going into the event. It’s always fun to see results of a long season of work and it was great to be able to help the team in any way I could.
GS: You set a school record in the 400 IM with your win. How did it feel to not only win the event, but set the school record as well?
JS: I try not to let things sink in until the meet is over, but I guess it felt similar to the way the rest of the weekend felt. As a team, we were able to set numerous school records and improve on many previous best times. The best part was that each best time was the result of an entire team effort to improve.
GS: What performance at the Big Ten Championship was the most surprising to everyone?
JS: I don’t think I could pick out one specific surprising performance from the meet there were SO many of them. I think I was most impressed by how fast the meet was this year. Compared to the past few years, this year’s level of competition was at a new height.
GS: You have to start getting ready for the NCAA Championships in March. What is a realistic goal for you individually and the Gophers at the national level?
JS: NCAA’s has been the main focus of our season, and we plan to use our performances at Big 10’s as momentum for heading into nationals. One of our goals is to build on our performances from Big 10’s and take each swim to the next level. Now that nearly all of the hard work of the season has been put in, we’re pretty pumped to see the ending results.