Wildcat swimmers gun for NCAA Championships
The Arizona men's swimming and diving squads have said all the laps swam in practice and all the meets through the year are just preparation for one weekend in March, the NCAA Championships.
That weekend is now upon the 12 swimmers who will be representing the Wildcats today through Saturday in Indianapolis.
Arizona enters the meet as the No. 6-ranked team in the nation, hoping to improve upon their sixth place finish in last year's championships.
"We are going into this year's championships with the best men's team Arizona has ever seen," UA head coach Frank Busch said. "The men know what they have, and hope to fully utilize it."
Swimmers or relay teams finishing in the top 16 places in each event can score points for a team score. Busch said one of his team's main goals is to get as many of his swimmers in scoring position, especially in the top eight, where the point values begin to increase significantly.
Leading the Arizona men is junior Ryk Neethling, who enters the meet in hopes of defending his three national titles. His victories came in the 200-yard freestyle, 500 free and 1,650 free. In preparation for the meet, Neethling won Pacific 10 Conference titles in the 500 free and 1,650 free and placed second in the 200 free two weeks ago at the Pac-10 Championships.
Busch said Neethling, the team captain, is a great asset to the squad. Not only does Neethling swim hard race after race, but his enthusiasm and leadership is good to have on the pool deck, Busch added.
Along with Neethling, freshman Roland Schoeman is hoping to carry his success over from Pac-10s to the NCAA Championships. Schoeman finished third in the 100 free, fourth in the 50 free and sixth in the 100 butterfly at Pac-10s.
The fiercest competition for the Wildcats could come from teams that Arizona has already faced this season. Pac-10 rival Stanford enters as the No. 1-ranked team, while Southern Cal and California boast No. 4 and No. 7 rankings, respectively.
In a dual-meet between the Wildcats and Cardinal Jan. 21, sophomore Adam Messner led Stanford to a 140-90 victory over Arizona by placing second in three separate events (200 free, 200 fly and 500 free). The Trojans and Golden Bears also came out victorious over the Wildcats, but Busch said the 0-4 record his swimmers posted in conference dual-meets does not reflect what championship competitions will look like.
In dual-meets, teams can have every swimmer on their roster participate. However, at NCAAs a team can only race swimmers that have made qualifying times earlier in the season.
"The guys that have qualified for our team are strong," Busch said. "We have been training hard, and hope to go out and make this whole season worthwhile."