Homecoming in a familiar pool for Bootsma

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 21, 2014 - 12:59 AM

Eden Prairie’s Rachel Bootsma, now at Cal, gets to swim the NCAAs where she’s had career highlights.


Former Eden Prairie swimmer Rachel Bootsma already has an Olympic gold medal, but she’s still learning as a sophomore at Cal.

Photo: BRIAN PETERSON • brian.peterson@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Her mother planned the dinner party, ordering an Italian feast big enough to feed 16 swimmers and five coaches. That would have been enough to make Rachel Bootsma happy, but her coaches went one step further to celebrate Bootsma’s return to Minnesota as a member of the University of California swim team.

They arranged for a limousine to deliver the team to the Monday night dinner at the Bootsma home in Eden Prairie. “I wasn’t sure how it was going to get out of our cul-de-sac, but it did,’’ said Jan Bootsma, Rachel’s mother. “Rachel has been looking forward to this weekend ever since she started school last year. We all have.”

The limo ride and dinner were merely a prelude to the main attraction: the NCAA women’s swimming and diving championships, which began Thursday in the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center pool where Bootsma first discovered how good she could be. The 2012 Olympian — now a sophomore at Cal — helped the Golden Bears to a fifth-place finish in the 400-yard medley relay and swam in the preliminaries of the 200 freestyle relay, which finished second. Friday, she will attempt to defend her NCAA title in the 100 backstroke.

That championship wrapped up an outstanding freshman season for Bootsma, who won a gold medal at the London Games when she raced in the preliminaries for the victorious U.S. 4x100-meter medley relay. Her second year at Cal has presented new challenges, but she enters the NCAA meet in good form. Bootsma won her second Pac-12 title in the 100 backstroke earlier this month in 51.19 seconds and is seeded fourth in a strong NCAA field.

Parents Jan and Rob Bootsma — and other family members and friends — put on their Cal team gear Thursday and sat in the middle of a hearty Golden Bears cheering section. They had watched from those bleachers many times before, as Rachel won club meets and high school state titles at the Gophers’ pool. Adding some NCAA success to that scrapbook, Rachel said, has been on her mind since she learned last year that the meet would be on the U campus.

“I’ve been swimming there since I was eight or nine years old,” said Bootsma, 20, who also will compete in the 100 and 200 butterfly and on Cal’s relays at the NCAAs. “We’d have three or four big meets there every year during my club career, so I know that pool really well.

“I have a lot of good memories there, and some good, fast swimming. It’s going to be fun. I’m really, really excited to be in my home pool.”

Cal coach Teri McKeever is excited for her. Though Bootsma said her results during the dual meet season weren’t as good as she wanted, McKeever praised her masterful handling of her freshman year and her determination to work through obstacles this season.

“She really did a wonderful job last year,” McKeever said. “She had a few more challenges as a sophomore, but I’m just as proud of her. She’s done a really, really great job of learning from each experience and not trying to make this year last year. She just tries to be her best, day in and day out.”

This season has been fun, Bootsma said, though she has put in an enormous amount of work. She made some minor adjustments to her stroke, and it took lots of time for the strides she made in practice to show up in her racing.

She also found that different things were expected of her. As a rookie, Bootsma said, she got to spend the year learning from others; now, she is expected to help teach younger swimmers the ropes, even as she came to understand just how green she still was. And at Cal, where the roster includes four other Olympians and two world champions, it’s impossible to take it easy in practice even for a moment.

“You come back [after freshman year] thinking you know everything, and you don’t know anything at all,” Bootsma said, laughing. “It’s a very different dynamic, having the responsibility to teach when you’re still learning yourself.

“When the people next to you in practice have Olympic medals, there is never a time when you’re not giving 100 percent. It does take a toll mentally, emotionally and physically. But ultimately, that makes us a way better team.”

And ultimately, Bootsma said, she has found satisfaction in meeting the challenge. She is trying to evolve beyond the backstroke; McKeever said Bootsma does not get enough credit for being an all-around swimmer, even after she placed third in both the 100 and 200 butterfly at the Pac-12 meet. Bootsma also was part of two winning relay teams at the conference championships.

After starting the NCAA meet with a celebration, she hopes to end it with one, too. “I’ve learned a lot this year, and I’ve grown a lot, in and out of the pool,” Bootsma said. “The Pac-12 meet showed I’m moving in the right direction. I know there’s more in the tank.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 3:30 PM
Seattle 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Edmonton 7:00 PM
Robert Morris 71
Santa Clara 57 FINAL
Tennessee 64
Oklahoma 59 FINAL
Butler 46
Austin Peay 79 FINAL
Brown 58
Princeton 51 2nd Half 0:21
Texas-El Paso 60
Coastal Carolina 46 2nd Half 14:37
Chattanooga 48
Kansas 47 2nd Half 16:16
Rhode Island 33
Wisconsin 11 1st Half 12:08
Georgetown 17
FIU 14 1st Half 9:19
USC Upstate 18
Long Island 3:00 PM
Stony Brook
San Diego 3:30 PM
Illinois 4:00 PM
Indiana State
Western Ky 5:00 PM
Saint Josephs
Cal State Fullerton 5:00 PM
Wright State
Michigan State 5:30 PM
UCLA 6:00 PM
North Carolina
Marquette 7:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Long Beach State 7:30 PM
Western Mich
Stephen F Austin 8:00 PM
Prairie View
UAB 8:30 PM
Rice 8:30 PM
San Jose St 10:00 PM
Washington St 10:59 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Baylor 10:59 PM
LSU 6:30 PM
Texas A&M
(6) TCU 6:30 PM
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Hartford 43 FINAL
Furman 53
Clemson 77 FINAL
Ohio State 86
Idaho State 53 FINAL
San Diego State 68
East Carolina 58 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 69
Santa Clara 0 Cancelled
Texas-El Paso 0
Florida State 16 1st Half 9:37
Washington 15
Wichita State 3 1st Half 13:42
Fla Gulf Coast 10
Wisconsin 3:15 PM
(1) South Carolina
BYU 5:00 PM
Charlotte 5:00 PM
Illinois 5:00 PM
(9) Kentucky
Kansas State 0 Cancelled
Central Michigan 7:00 PM
Oklahoma 7:15 PM
South Florida
Princeton 7:30 PM
Wake Forest
(19) Oregon State 8:00 PM


question of the day

Poll: Will the Gophers bring home The Axe?

Weekly Question





Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters