Junior captain Derek Toomey leads the Gophers men’s swimming team by example.
A six-time All-American, Toomey has competed in eight different events this season. He is well respected by his teammates and coaches because of his work ethic and leadership.
“He’s a leader by just showing them [his teammates] what hard work does,” said Ben Griggs, a senior on the men’s team. “He has that right attitude at meets, and he doesn’t complain. He doesn’t put down other people. Instead, he just tries to make himself better.”
Toomey’s teammates elected him captain for this season because of his leadership both in the pool and away from it, according to men’s and women’s head coach Kelly Kremer.
“He has so many strengths,” Kremer said. “But I think his passion and love for this sport and his work ethic are two of the things he brings to this team that everybody recognizes.”
Toomey has displayed this work ethic since his freshman season.
As a freshman, Toomey won a Big Ten title and set a conference record in the 200-yard freestyle relay. He anchored the same relay team to a seventh-place finish at the NCAA championships and claimed three All-American honors that season.
Toomey earned three more All-American honors his sophomore season, again leading his 200-yard freestyle relay team to a top-15 finish at the NCAA championships.
Toomey has had a strong junior season thus far, winning multiple races in meets against Iowa and Wisconsin.
Both the men’s and the women’s teams recently took a three-week training trip to Hawaii. Toomey said training five to six hours a day in Hawaii was taxing, but he doesn’t plan on letting it slow him down.
“Even though I’m broken down and tired from the tough winter training, I just want to be as fast as I was when I wasn’t quite broken down,” he said.
While Toomey aspires to compete for Big Ten and NCAA titles in March, his season will not end there. He will compete for the U.S. this summer in the World University Games in Kazan, Russia.
Toomey qualified for the games at the U.S. Open Championships last August. Kyler Van Swol, a junior on the men’s team, and Ashley Steenvoorden, who graduated from Minnesota last spring, will also participate in the games. Kremer will accompany them as a U.S. coach.
Though Toomey has an international summer trip to look forward to, he is focusing on ending this season strong as the Gophers try to improve on last season’s 24th-place finish at the NCAA Championships.
Kremer does not want his workhorse to press, however.
“I just want Derek to be Derek,” Kremer said, “And we’re going to be in really good shape.”