Swimmers on edge for NCAA invitation


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Freshman Jordan Huff, sophomores Duncan Partridge and Paul Gordon, and senior Brian Farris were in a race against the clock Wednesday night.

After posting a school record-breaking time of 6:27.66 in the 800 relay at the Big Ten championships last weekend, the Hawkeyes sat at No. 12 on the list of NCAA championship qualifiers.

But when the Pac-10 championships ended on Wednesday, five teams — Arizona, Stanford, California, Washington, and Southern California — had topped their time.

The Trojans — the slowest of the five — managed to finish in 6:22:87, nearly five seconds better than Iowa, which may now be standing outside the NCAA picture.

The Hawkeyes won’t know officially until March 8, Gordon said.

“We’re going to be right on the bubble,” he said. “But hopefully, we can do the same thing we did at conference.”

Last season, NCAA officials invited 15 squads to the national meet. Had only three Pac-10 teams surpassed Iowa’s mark, its odds of receiving an invitation would have been considerably more favorable.

After Wednesday’s results, though, the Hawkeyes are hoping a few more teams are called this season.

But they said they aren’t keeping their hopes up. And if the four don’t receive a bid, they’ll use their team’s success at the Big Ten championships as a cornerstone for the future.

In Columbus, Ohio, last weekend, Iowa broke seven school records and finished sixth out of 10 teams — the program’s best showing in 14 years.

And with four conference foes sitting in the top 25 and the six others receiving votes, the Iowa swimmers also picked up confidence along the way.

Should the Hawkeyes earn a opportunity to prove themselves at the NCAA championships, they plan to use that confidence as a launching pad.

“The difference is this team knows how to beat the [good] teams now,” Huff said. “We know we can do well at Big Tens now, regardless of how we have performed in the past … It’s kind of just the experience of knowing how to swim, knowing how to race.”

Looking up at the scores last weekend, Huff said he liked what he saw, but he admitted there is some disparity between Iowa and the faster relay teams.

However, he expects that the Hawkeyes will catch up during the 2010-11 season.

“We know we’re a young class,” Huff said. “We look at the other relays when we’re getting the awards, and we see a lot of juniors and seniors up there. It’s just exciting because we know we’re returning almost everybody, and next year we’ll be even faster.”

Iowa head coach Marc Long said he was happy with his team’s performance five days ago as well, but he has his sights set on loftier accomplishments.

“A lot of these guys train two-a-days year round just to be able to compete at this level,” Long said.

“Big Tens was a giant step for us, but there are bigger steps yet to come, including moving up in the Big Ten and competing stronger at the NCAA level.”

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