Coming up for air


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The Hawkeyes can’t hold their breath any longer. They’re ready to come up for air.

The Iowa men’s swimming and diving team will begin its final season in the Field House with the inaugural Pink Meet at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The team named the annual Black and Gold intrasquad game the Pink Meet to spread awareness of breast cancer.

Iowa head coach Marc Long said this was the first time the swimming team has ever done anything similar to this. He hopes to bring more awareness to the meet and the disease by placing the event right before a home football game.

“[Breast cancer] affects a lot of lives. It has affected our team — both teams,” Long said. “So we thought a perfect meet for that would be our intrasquad meet, partially because the men are involved.

“I think we’re the first men’s team on campus to do this.”

The team is hoping to pay tribute to the men and women who have suffered through breast cancer and spread awareness about the disease. They plan to make it an annual event, spreading awareness of a different disease each year.

The event is the first meet of the 2009-10 season, and the team is eager to get underway. Last season, the Hawkeyes went 7-1 overall, undefeated (4-0) at home. Junior cocaptain Max Dittmer is hoping to carry some of that success over to this season.

“We definitely want to recreate that,” he said. “Especially since it’s the last year in the Field House, we want it to be a special one. We want to go out with a bang.”

Staying undefeated at home might be a more difficult task this year. The Hawkeyes have a more difficult schedule and a team that’s still relatively young. Long said the team is challenging itself with a tougher schedule this season, adding No. 9 Minnesota to the list after seeing four teams in the top 25 last year.

“What we’re doing is building toward a championship team, and we’ll take steps this year,” Long said. “They’re young, and they’re developing. There is weekly development happening.”

Even with the tougher schedule and younger team, senior cocaptain Nick Divan is optimistic about what the team can do, considering what it accomplished last season.

“Last year, we had some dual meets where nobody thought we could win,” he said. “And everybody stepped up and raced, and we ended up winning.”

This season, the Hawkeyes are hoping to surprise some people again. In the off-season, the Hawkeyes lost one of their best swimmers in Conor Dwyer. He set the school record in the 100-meter freestyle and was a major player in the relays.

The Hawkeyes believe they are more prepared this year because of depth.

“Initially, it felt like we were losing a huge player, but we have 10 freshmen coming in,” Divan said. “We have a ton of talent, and they’re all working really hard right now.”

Another thing that could carry Iowa is its team attitude. Long said the Hawkeyes like to refer to themselves as “scrappy.” He’s hoping that attitude will take them far.

“We’ve steadily gotten better each year. We’re starting to create the culture we think we can really launch from,” Long said. “It’s going to take some development to move up, but you look at where we’ve come the last four years. It’s gotten more and more impressive.”

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