Hawkeye swimming to face Gophers in border battle

BY BEN ROSS | NOVEMBER 04, 2011 7:20 AM

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Minnesota will travel to Iowa City today to compete against the Iowa men's swimming team in what will be both squads' toughest test of the season thus far.

In the schools' most recent competitions, Iowa (2-0, 2-0 Big Ten) dominated Michigan State on Oct. 29 in the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center, and Minnesota (1-0, 1-0 Big Ten) beat Wisconsin a day earlier in Madison.

Iowa has struggled against the Golden Gophers in the past — dating to 1920, the dual-meet record between the two teams is 46-39 in favor of Minnesota. That, coupled with the proximity of the schools, makes this one of the most important meets of the season — at least, that's what Duncan Partridge said he believes.

"They're our biggest rival," Partridge said. "The three years I have been here, we've only lost three dual meets — all to Minnesota. It's been a dark spot on my career here, and they've become our biggest rivalry. It should be a real exciting meet, a straight-up man-to-man battle."

Sophomore Dustin Rhoads agreed Minnesota is the Hawkeyes' largest rival but cited reasons different from the ones his teammate gave.

"It's definitely a big rivalry," the Ames native said. "They're a tremendous swim program. They … have a lot of All-Americans on that squad. They are close to us geographically, and our football teams play for a trophy, so that sets up a pretty big rivalry."

It can be difficult to simulate the intensity and the atmosphere associated with such a large meet; that's why, once a week, the Hawkeyes hold a practice that mimics the feeling of a live competition.

These practices are set up in fashion normally reserved for meets; racing blocks, time clocks, and somewhat friendly competition are all a part of the weekly exercise.

Senior All-American Paul Gordon said he thinks these workouts are beneficial in preparing for meets and the main goal is to make each other better.

"[These practices] are high-intensity," he said. "We get off the blocks and keep times. We race against each other, and take mechanics seriously; if someone gets a start wrong, they have to redo it. The high-stakes nature makes it a good time to practice nerves and experience similar stress of a meet. You get worn down, but you still have to step up and race, which helps you get ready for dual meets."

The practices should help the Black and Gold hone their skills; they will need to be nearly flawless against a Gopher team that finished No. 15 in the nation at the end of the 2010-11 season and returns three All-Americans in Derek Toomey, Zach Bolin, and Kyler VanSwol.

Assistant swimming coach Nate Mundt iterated the benefits of the intense practices and said he thinks this will be the best performance given by his team all season.

"In those practices, they physically know what to expect and simulate while racing," he said. "We work on getting over mental hurdles, and think positive thoughts about racing to be ready mentally. Minnesota has been good for a long time — it should bring out the best in our swimmers."

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