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Iowa men’s swimming relay rallies for win on final race

BY PATRICK RAFFERTY | FEBRUARY 01, 2010 7:30 AM

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To say that every point counted would almost be an understatement.

Traveling back from South Bend, Ind., following a victory at the Shamrock Invitational, the Iowa men’s swimming and diving team is now 9-1.

Earning the three wins this past weekend wasn’t easy. Iowa handled host team Notre Dame, 197-171, as well as Denver, 236-125. After attempting for two days to hold off Missouri, the Hawkeyes experienced some déjà vu.

During their previous meet, at Northwestern on Jan. 23, the Hawkeyes mounted a huge comeback to gain the victory. This meet had a similar story.

With Iowa and Missouri almost tied on Jan. 30, the Hawkeyes did some of their most polished swimming of the season. In the third to last event of the day, junior Sean Hagan took second place in the 200 breaststroke (2:05.39). Hagan edged out Missouri’s Yaniv Shnaider, who finished third, keeping the score close.

“Before the two-breast, we know we needed a win out of it to have a chance for the rest of the meet,” Hagan said. “I did my best, and we ended up pulling out a win against Missouri. We had scored in it earlier in the meet, and we knew that we needed to score in each event to get points. Winning the event kind of made the difference.”

Iowa head coach Marc Long said Hagan and the team really stepped it up. He was inspired by his squad’s performance with the season nearing a conclusion.

“We had some very good performances,” Long said. “I’m excited to get out of here with three wins against quality opponents. It was what we we’re looking for, hard, gutsy racing.

“You talk about one point counting over a two-day, three-session meet, it really did. I was proud of how they stepped up. It came down to the last relay, and I’m real confident in our relays. We came away with the victory, and the victory in the whole meet.”

After Hagan handled his race, Missouri placed third in following race, and Iowa didn’t score. Again, the Hawkeyes had a problem: The needed a first-place finish in the 400 relay to secure the victory.

“Right before the last race, we found out it was coming down to the relay,” Hagan said. “We were pretty confident. We were actually doing really well in the 100 freestyle, and we just knew if we got a win, there would be a good chance for us. Luckily, it came down to that. You got to do what you got to do to win.”

Iowa has been relying on its relay races to come up big. Long said the coaches really try to preach the term “racing” — racing the opponent rather than the clock. He said if the Hawks race the field, “times will follow.”

Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, the relay team of sophomores Paul Gordon, Duncan Partridge, freshman Jordan Huff, and junior Ryan Phelan was ready to race. They ended up winning the last race (2:59.68) and beating Missouri, 184.5-183.5.

“One thing we’re really working on as a team is the depth, and that’s something that in relays you can’t hide if you don’t have a deep team,” Gordon said. “It’s the easiest way to score points at the Big Tens, and the team aspect is the thing we focused on most this season.”

With only one dual meet left in the season, Iowa knows now is the time to be swimming its best. With another solid victory, the Hawkeyes are hoping to carry the momentum into their final home meet Feb. 5 against Western Illinois and into the Big Ten championships.

“That’s the big picture, the Big Tens,” Long said. “We felt this would prepare us with our racing this time of year, in events we don’t always get to swim in dual-meet formats. We’re excited about the opportunities we had here and how we feel it prepared us for Big Tens, and that is clearly the next step for our program.”


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