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Women’s swimming and diving head to Big Tens

BY MAGGIE CUNNINGHAM | FEBRUARY 16, 2011 7:20 AM

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Like every Big Ten team in the bottom half of the conference, the Iowa women’s swimming and diving team wants to move up. Specifically, the Hawkeyes will try to improve upon last year’s ninth-place finish in the Big Ten meet.

A few advantages have the Hawkeyes calling this a “realistic” goal.

The 2011 Big Ten Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships will begin at 11 a.m. today in Bloomington, Ind., with preliminary rounds. The three-day competition will be hosted at Indiana University’s Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatic Center. The finals of each event will be held every evening.

Simulating a competitive atmosphere during the tapering of their training has left the Hawkeyes not only physically rested but psychologically ready.

“Throughout the taper time, we rested our muscles and stayed relaxed,” associate head coach Frannie Malone said. “But we also spent time getting mentally prepared to compete at the highest level.”

Practicing quick starts and fast exchanges off the blocks was just one way the team replicated a competitive atmosphere.

Another advantage for the Hawkeyes is the style of the championship meet. With only the top 16 swimmers in each race scoring, team depth is less of a factor than it is at a dual meet.

“If you are really going for a team title [depth] is important on the top end,” Malone said. “But this style meet helps us because we do have individuals who we know are in the top 16 and we know can score.”

With 11 teams vying for the top 16 places in each event, the team points are displaced among each school’s top performers. The third-, fourth-, and fifth-best swimmers from each team have less effect in the event.

“Because there are so many teams, it’s just the best of each team who are going to score,” sophomore captain April Allen said. “Maybe our top two girls will get in, but the top two of Indiana or Wisconsin will, too. So it’s a lot about that top group.”

Senior Katarina Tour and freshman Haley Gordon are just two of those Hawkeyes expected to score. Both Tour and Gordon are seeded among the top 16 swimmers in the 200 individual medley event.

Senior divers Deidre Freeman and Veronica Rydze are also expected to rake in some points on the diving boards.

Two weeks ago, Freeman and Rydze both qualified for the 1-meter world trials and finished fourth in the 3-meter synchro as a team at the USA Diving 2011 Winter Nationals. Rydze was also Iowa’s leading scorer at Big Tens last year.

Synchronized diving will be held during the Big Ten championships for the first time ever as an exhibition event.  

“This is really our peak meet; we are looking for the fastest times of the year right now,” Malone said. “So this is really the time to do well.”

For NCAA hopefuls Tour and junior Daniela Cubelic, this is the time to qualify. A strong race that meets the NCAA B cut qualifying time would put each of them in contention. Then, their performances throughout the regular-season conference meets would be considered in addition to meeting the required time.

Iowa’s strongest swimmers are further motivated for personal success. The Hawkeyes’ lack of depth is a lesser factor. And the team is race-ready.

“[The team goal] is realistic,” Allen said. “But we have to apply everything we have already done all year and go for it.”


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