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Men AquaHawks head to Big Ten championships

BY PATRICK RAFFERTY | FEBRUARY 24, 2010 7:30 AM

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The Iowa men’s swimming and diving team has had one date circled on their calendars since the end of the summer — today.

It’s the day the Hawkeyes hope will forever be remembered as the beginning of a new era at the Big Ten championships in Columbus, Ohio.

“I think what we need to do is know that we belong there,” sophomore Paul Gordon said, “know that we can beat these guys and know that we can step up and race them no matter who they are.”

That mentality is what Hawkeyes carried through a 10-1 campaign — one of best in recent memory.

At the beginning of the season, the team members collectively hashed out goals. Iowa is four days away from accomplishing its main objective: Improving on a ninth-place finish.

“We talked in the beginning of the year that it’s time to start moving up in the Big Ten,” head coach Marc Long said. “We know we’re still lacking some depth; however, we need to start seeing some movement, and that will take people getting into scoring position in both swimming and diving.”

With a 10-1 record, the Hawkeyes are one of the better teams in the Big Ten on paper. Iowa’s only loss came against No. 10 Minnesota.

But the Big Ten championships feature a different format from regular-season competitions and more teams.

“We have to carry the same confidence that we’ve had all season,” Gordon said. “As far as the team doing better, we’ve got a young, excited, motivated group of guys, and that’s what you need to do well.

“We want to get at least eighth, but deep down, we want to do a lot better than that. We’re going to have to have relays scoring top five.”

Last season, the Iowa relay teams finished eighth and ninth in the races in which teams vie for double points.

Freshman Jordan Huff, who will make his first Big Ten meet appearance, is no stranger to high-pressure meets, having participated at Nationals in the past.

Huff has been a key member on a relay team, and he knows the squad will be heavily relied upon to score.

“They’re something we need to move up in,” he said. “I think the two medley relays are really going to surprise people. I don’t think anyone is expecting anything out of the medley relays except us.”

The Big Ten is arguably the toughest swimming conference with all 10 teams — Illinois being the lone school without a program — listed either in the top 25 or on the bubble.

Long said a good finish this season will carry momentum and give Iowa exposure for the future

“This is all about building a program and getting a presence at NCAAs,” Long said. “The Big Ten is the deepest conference in the country, and here we are battling just to move up from a ninth place finish. It’s that deep of a conference. But we feel like we’re ready to start stepping up, and we have a lot of things happening this fall which will help at these meets.”


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