The University of Minnesota women’s swimming and diving team has a bright outlook heading into the season. Every athlete who qualified for the NCAA Championships a year ago is back on the team. The Golden Gophers are already off to a strong 3-0 start in dual meets in 2010-11 with victories against Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa State. During the streak the Gophers have already celebrated two Big Ten Athletes of the Week in diver Maggie Keefer and swimmer Jillian Tyler. Depth will definitely play an important role in the Golden Gophers’ success as Minnesota will feature all-around talent throughout the lineup.
“Right now, we’re pretty well-balanced,” said Gopher co-head coach Terry Nieszner. “From the sprints, to the strokes, to the distance events, to the diving, we are excited about our talent and depth.”
In part two of a three-part series, we look at the Gophers in the breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and individual medley events. Check back to gophersports.com of part three, which will cover the relays and diving.
One of Minnesota’s most decorated swimmers is senior All American, Jillian Tyler. Tyler placed first in the 100 breast at Big Ten Championships and fourth at the NCAA’s. Haley Spencer will look to improve on a 10th place finish in the 100 at the NCAA’s. Don’t lose sight of senior, Molly Belk who finished fifth at the Big Tens.
As a freshman, Haley Spencer took the pool by storm finishing she was named an All American in the 200 at the end of the season. Spencer placed first in the 200 at the Big Ten Championships while Jillian Tyler came in second. The Gophers should continue to flex their muscle in this event.
Backstroke and Butterfly
Minnesota will look to junior Hannah Whitehead to carry the torch in the backstroke. Last year at the Big Tens, Whitehead placed fifth in the 100 and 12th in the 200. As a freshman, Melissa Nelson also helped the team by coming in at 24th in the 100 back and will be looking to improve on her freshman outing.
The Gophers have competitive depth in the butterfly stroke led by seniors Kaylee Jamison and Megan Braun. At the Big Ten meet, Jamison placed third with Braun coming in at fifth in 100. In the 200 Braun took fourth while Jamison took seventh. They will see increased depth from sophomore Annalise Colton and seniors, Molly Belk and Kelsey Ridder.
As a team the Gophers will look to improve on their solid times in the individual medleys from last season. Jillian Tyler and Haley Spencer Haley headline this event finishing ninth and 11th, respectively, at the Big Ten Championships a year ago.
Freshman, Kaela Anderson will add to the equation this year. As a freshman at Stillwater High School, Anderson won the 200 IM at the Minnesota State High School League Championship in 2007.