Swimming, diving ready to make a splash
Arizona's No. 3-ranked women's and the No. 7-ranked men's swimming and diving teams will finally have a chance to swim some laps and flip into the pool against some real competition.
The teams open their season against New Mexico in a meet scheduled for today at 2 p.m. at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center.
The Lobos are not ranked in the early polls.
"We are a much stronger program than New Mexico. It is a good meet for us to open up with," UA head coach Frank Busch said. "We get a chance to swim people where we want."
The season opener for the Wildcats will feature the debut of 12 newcomers for the women and eight newcomers for the men.
The Wildcats compete in the Pacific 10 Conference, which consistently has at least five teams competing for NCAA titles at the championships in March, but being nervous for the new swimmers is out of the question for Busch.
"The Pac-10 conference is the most competitive swimming conference in the nation and that is nothing new to us," Busch said. "But, they (the newcomers) wouldn't have come here if they didn't have it in their hearts to be confident and know that they can compete. Time is the only thing that will tell."
Last year the Wildcats women's squad finished second at the NCAA Championships while the men placed sixth.
The women's team had its best finish in UA history as the team brought home four NCAA individual titles. Junior Trina Jackson won the 1,650-yard freestyle title for the second straight year.
In addition to Jackson returning for head coach Frank Busch, junior Ryk Neethling is back for the men's squad.
A year ago Neethling captured three individual national titles at the championships, making him the only Arizona swimmer to ever win three titles in one year.
After the opening meet for UA, the Wildcats will travel to Southern Cal. The Trojan men's team is ranked fourth and the women are ranked fifth in the current polls. The meet will kick off Pac-10 play.
Rounding out the Pac-10 rankings are Stanford at No. 1 for both men's and women's, California men at ninth and women at eighth, Arizona State men at 11th and women at 23rd and UCLA's women are ranked 15th.
Dan Rosen can be reached via e-mail at Dan.Rosen@wildcat.arizona.edu.