Even though the Arizona men's swimming and diving team is ranked second in the country, it will have to play the role of underdog at this weekend's Pacific 10 Conference Championships
The Stanford Cardinal, currently ranked sixth, are the 18-time defending Pac-10 champions.
Besides Stanford, two of the top five teams in the nation - No. 4 California and No. 5 Southern California - will be battling the Wildcats.
Upsetting the Cardinal will be not be easy, but the men know it's possible because the women's team knocked off 13-time defending champion Stanford at last week's conference championships.
"It really motivates us and gives us a lot of confidence because we train with the girls each and every day," senior Ryk Neethling said. "The women are a completely different team though because they have the ability to swim better unshaven. Hopefully, we too will be able to swim as fast as they did without shaving."
Arizona enters the meet, which is held at the King Country Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Wash., with an advantage over its opponents. Last weekend at USC in the men's diving Pac-10 Championships, the UA men divers dominated the field of competition, giving the team a 70-point lead going into this weekend's swimming events
Sophomore Ruben Vaca proved he is among the nations top divers as he captured the 1- and 10-meter platform diving titles.
"Ruben is an elite diver," senior diver Chris Lane said. "He is at a different level. He is a great teammate. Everyone had expectations for him and it was great to see him fulfill them."
Besides holding an early 70 point lead, Arizona has a swimmer in the top 10 in every event except the 200 breaststroke and 100 butterfly.
"We had a really strong diving performance last week, which has given us a 70
point lead," junior Jay Schryver said. "We need to get solid performances from
out top guys of Roland (Schoeman) and Ryk (Neethling). Also, we must swim
strong in every race to be successful."
Neethling, the three-time Pac-10 Swimmer of the Year and five-time Pac-10 champion, will attempt to add three more titles in the 200, 500 and 1650 free-style.
He is the returning champion in the 500 and 1650 free-style, and he also holds the nation's fastest time in the 200 free-style.
Neethling, though, said the Wildcats have their work cut out for them.
"Most of our team is unshaved and it is going to take a lot for us to overcome and beat all of the teams that are shaved," Neethling said.
Sophomore Roland Shoeman holds the NCAA record in the 50 free-style and he has the nation's fastest time in the 100 free-style, but he has never won a Pac-10 title.
Other UA athletes among the nation's best are senior Matt Allen, who has the country's fastest time in the 100 backstroke, and junior Ben Anderson, who has the No. 1 time in the 200 individual medley and the No. 2 time in the 200 butterfly.