What They Are Saying: NCAA Division I Women’s Championships Press Conference

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MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, March 19. JUST a day before the Minnesota Aquatic Center plays host to some of the fastest swimmers in the world at the NCAA Division I Women’s Championships, members of the top two teams (California and Georgia) as well as the hosts (Minnesota) took part in a press conference.

CALIFORNIA

Teri McKeever, California Head Coach

Opening Statement…
“Thank you for coming. We are really excited to be in Minneapolis. I think it means a tremendous amount to Rachel (Bootsma.) Over the years, Minnesota has done a wonderful job of hosting national and NCAA events. It is a pleasure to come here. We are looking forward to three good days of racing. We want to be at our best and see where that leads us. (We will) enjoy the snow for three days then get on a airplane Sunday and you guys will get to keep enjoying the snow. We will have sunshine. I am a Californian, so I am a little biased, but we are happy to be here.”

On how Rachel Bootsma has grown while at California…
“One of the best blessings in my life is to be around young people when they are out on their own for the first time. I think a lot of people can recognize that it is a really important step in someone developing who they are. I have a young lady that has grown in so many ways that it would take me longer than the time we have (to say). Most importantly, she is embracing the journey and that is what I am most proud of. She has grown as an athlete and a person. Those are the things that are going to help her in the next stage of her life continue to be successful and happy. That is what I feel good about.”

On the critical races in the event in pursuit of the team title…
“Every one of them. I think it is going to be a great meet. You look and there is talent on a lot of different teams. The relays are obviously important because they are worth double points. A lot of people are saying that it might be a battle between us and Georgia. Our strengths are completely opposite. Most of the areas where they are strong are not our strengths. We have some depth and possibilities in areas where they are not very strong. I think it is going to be really interesting and fun. Not too often do you get to go to swim meet and the outcome is in doubt. I think that is what is great about March Madness, anyone can win on any day. We are coming to place in women’s swimming where there is a lot more parity. For 15 to 20 years, it was only Florida, Stanford and Texas period. In the late 1990s, I think Georgia was the first team besides one of those three schools to win a relay. That is what I am proud of. I am proud that our program is in the conversation. I do not know what is going to happen, but I am proud that we were in the top three for the last six years and in the top four for the last eight years. That to me is greater than one or two women. It is a program, process and philosophy that has allowed young people to come in, develop and be successful. The beauty of NCAA swimming is that you can’t win a title with just these two (Rachel Bootsma and Missy Franklin.) You need an amazing cast. (Bootsma and Franklin) sit here representing themselves, but they are also humble and know that they need their teammates to also be at their best.”

Freshman Missy Franklin

On how she drives Rachel Bootsma and how Rachel drives her…
“I think we have an incredible group this year. Having 16 people on the NCAA team I think is amazing. We have so much talent on our team. We joke about the California Bears backstroke group. Everyday in practice whether it is Rachel (Bootsma,) Liz (Pelton,) or Stephanie Au, we have an incredible group of girls. One of the things I love most about this team is how we are able to push each other every single day. There are amazing things that (Bootsma) is good at that I need to work on. It has been awesome to be able to watch her and learn from her in practice.”

On what she thinks about having the NCAA championship in Minneapolis…
“I love it. I think it is perfect for the NCAA Championship or any big meet because of how the stands (are designed.) We are surrounded by so much energy, whether it is from teams or fans in the stands. The pool is super fast. I always like coming here to swim. They always do great balloon art here too. There is always nice balloon arches with stars on them. It is always one of my favorite places to go.”

On the pressure of swimming for California…
“I think for everyone on the team, when we put the California cap on there is so much more meaning behind it than just putting on a regular cap. For me, it is very similar to having an American flag on my cap. Knowing who I am representing, where I come from and knowing that I am swimming with my entire team, not just myself.”

On handling her fame since the Olympics…
“It has been a change for sure, but it is one that I have really, really enjoyed. I have learned so much about myself. It has been the most incredible experience. I have had wonderful opportunities to meet new people. I have gotten inspiration from meeting new people all around the world. I have been able to meet the most incredible people, which has been my favorite part of the whole thing. Now, being able to swim at a (NCAA Championship) in college, I still can’t believe that I am here.”

On if having to talk about her accomplishments ever gets old…
“I always like to talk about it. I love when people come up and ask me questions. It is all part of the process. It is a gift to be able to sign a piece of paper and make someone smile. It is a gift that I really want to use to the best of my ability. I do cherish it.”

Sophomore Rachel Bootsma

On competing in her hometown…
“It is really exciting for me to be here. When I found out a year ago that it was going to be in Minneapolis, I was so excited. I have swam so many club and high school meets here. It is nice to be home. (The team) was able to go to my house for dinner, so the team was able to see my family and my cat. It is just nice to be home and I am excited to race in a familiar pool in front of my hometown.”

On how many friends and family she expects to be at the event…
“I am hoping a lot of my family members will all be here. I think some of the younger kids from the Aquajets swim club will be here too.”

On the advantage of being familiar with the pool…
“I don’t think it gives me an advantage, but I do think it makes me more excited. I am really excited to be home and I know this pool inside and out. I am just really excited to race and see what happens.”

On if she missed the snow…
“I love California weather, but coming here (the weather) is not too bad for this time of year. I was home for Christmas and there was just miserable weather.”

On the pressure of swimming for California…
“It is obviously a lot of pressure. We have a lot of pride coming from California to represent our team and our university. I think we have done a really good job this year not thinking of it as pressure, but as an opportunity to swim fast. We have the opportunity to do some great things here this week. Obviously, I am nervous, but it is from a place of excitement and not being scared.”

On what it is like too be pursuing a team trophy…
“Last year, I never expected NCAAs to be that team oriented. Everyone always said it was like that, but I had never felt that until I had my first swim on a relay the first day. It is an amazing feeling to know that you are swimming for something bigger than yourself. I think it also takes away some of the nerves because you know there are people who are supporting you and have your back no matter what. It is a really special feeling and team this year is an amazing group of 16 swimmers and a diver. I am really lucky to be a part of this and we are really lucky to be here with this strong of a team. ”

On if she thinks about the 2016 Olympics…
“For this week I am focused on this meet only. Next week, I could be focused on Rio. I do not know. Right now, it is NCAAs and that is about it”

GEORGIA

Harvey Humphries, Georgia Senior Associate Head Coach
Opening statement…
“We can’t be more happy to be here. It’s been a great season of training and preparation for this. Our athletes love to prepare and, thank goodness, they love to compete more, so we can’t wait to see what happens this week.”

On what he attributes the team’s recent success to…
“I think mainly our athletes because (head coach Jack Bauerle) and I are not very fast. They’re very good at adapting to this kind of competition—it’s a bit of a grind, it’s three days. I would say any time we’ve been really successful, it’s because we’ve got great leadership with our upperclassmen. They do a great job of learning from the ones that came before them and then becoming the role models and the leaders they need to be to help anybody get over a bump or a rough spot over the three days.”

Senior Laura Ryan
On the feeling around competition in the NCAA Championships in her home state…
“It feels amazing. This is where I started diving for the first time, so to have my collegiate career end right where it started—you can’t ask for anything more exciting than that, so I’m looking forward to a great meet”

On a possible advantage of being used to the University Aquatic Center’s pool…
“Growing up here, you get to know all the ins and outs of the pool—especially with diving, that important—there’s spotting and visual references, and stuff. I think it’s going to be a huge advantage and I’m excited that I’ll have that under my belt.”

Senior Shannon Vreeland
On competing at the NCAA championships versus the Olympics…
“I think there’s definitely something different competing in an NCAA championship with people that you’ve trained day in and day out with for two, three, or four years. On the Olympic team, you make the team, you get together for a few weeks, maybe a month, and then you go and compete together. As fantastic of an experience as that is, it’s something even more special getting to experience it being with people that you’ve seen at their best and at their worst and that you’ve helped cheer along the whole way, throughout the season.”

On what the NCAAs mean to her…
I love the NCAAs. It’s so fun to come into a meet with all your friends—people you’re with every single day…This is the meet where people come in and really get to shine and it’s exciting to get to be able to do that with your team—people you know really well and that you really want to see succeed. Obviously, you want to see people succeed on any national team and you get to know everybody as you’re moving along through meets, but there’s something special about people that you train with every single day and with your coaches”

MINNESOTA

Kelly Kremer, Minnesota Head Coach
Opening statement…
“As a team, we’ve been preparing for this meet all year, so we’re beyond excited to finally have a chance to get this meet started tomorrow. As a university, we could not be more excited to host the NCAA Championships, bringing the best swimmers, really in the world, to Minneapolis, which itself is an incredible swimming and diving community. To have a chance to bring all these elite athletes to our venue and our hometown is realty exciting for all of us.”

On trying to be one of the top four teams in the nation…
“I think we’re finally at a spot where we can talk about that as a realistic goal in the next five years. I think you have to consistently be in the top 10 and when you look at the teams you have to finish in front of just to be in the top 12 in the NCAA is unbelievable. We’re a consistent team in the top 10 and I think that’s where you have to be before you can realistically talk about being beyond that. The top five, to me, is a completely different level of swimming and I feel really good that we can talk about that in the next five years as a realistic goal, so we’re heading in the right direction, for sure.”

Junior Kiera Janzen
On hosting the NCAA Championships…
“It’s just incredible. I’ve grown up swimming in this pool and to have the opportunity to compete in arguably the fastest meet in the world in our pool is pretty special and I don’t think the team could be any more excited to have this opportunity.”

On a possible advantage to swimming at home…
“(Being calm) is a huge aspect of it. We’ve been talking in our meetings about how we feel comfortable in this pool and this environment. We have our own locker room, our own team room, and things of that nature, so we know this environment and it’s about welcoming everyone into our pool and our community. Like we’ve been saying, this is our house and it’s going to be fun to swim in it.”

“It’ s a huge honor to be looked at as a leader on this team and to be a captain. We have a great team this year, a real cohesive unit, I would say. I couldn’t be happier with where I’m at and where I’m going with the training here and the team here. It’s been so much fun here these last three years, training with (head coach Kelly Kremer) and training with the team. I’ve learned a lot in and out of the water and I’m just hoping to keep learning and keep improving.”

Senior Maggie Keefer
On hosting the NCAA Championships…
“I grew up in this pool, so this is the first place where I began diving and to have this be the place where I end my diving season is amazing. There’s going to be a lot of good diving and a lot of good swimming here. To have everyone in this environment is going to be fun.”

On a possible advantage to diving at home…
“I think there’s a definite advantage. I don’t have to get used to the boards, I don’t have to get used to the spotting environment, and I’ve been really calm and I’ve been diving here for the past 10 years, so I know how to compete well in this environment.”

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Author: Jason Marsteller

Jason Marsteller is the general manager of digital properties at Swimming World. He joined Swimming World in June 2006 as the managing editor after previous stints as a media relations professional at Indiana University, the University of Tennessee, Southern Utah University and the Utah Summer Games.

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