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Men’s swimmers confident entering Big Tens

BY BEN WOLFSON | FEBRUARY 23, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa men’s swimming team hasn’t competed in almost three weeks.

But now, the most important part of the entire season is here as the Hawkeyes compete at the Big Ten championships, held at the University Aquatic Center at the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis from today through Saturday.

Last season, Iowa had a successful showing when the event was held in Columbus, Ohio, finishing sixth overall — the Hawkeyes’ best showing since 1996.

This week, the Hawkeyes enter competition as the 25th ranked team in the College Swimming Coaches Association of America men’s Division-I poll. Joining Iowa in the rankings is Michigan (9), Ohio State (11), Indiana (14), Minnesota (15), and Purdue (20).

Iowa has put together a successful season thus far, and the confident team is ready to make a statement.

“I think we have a much more mature team this year,” junior Ryan Phelan said. “Last year and the year before going to Big Tens, that was the biggest meet for a lot of [swimmers].

“Whereas this year, we brought in a lot of [guys] who have been to national meets and have that experience and exposure to big-time meets.”

This year, the Hawkeyes have bigger goals as they continue to build a team that will be ready to compete for a Big Ten championship.

“We’ve definitely improved a lot since last year,” senior Bryan Hill said. “Because the Big Ten is so deep, it’s going to be tough for us to break into the top five, but we’re looking to do that and surprise a few teams.”

The team’s practice and conditioning schedule has changed dramatically from what it was during the dual-meet season.

Head coach Marc Long said the team has been working on “fine-tuning things in preparation for Big Tens,” which involves high-intensity sets with a lot of rest.

For swimming practice, Phelan said, the team has eliminated any red-yardage training — which means anything in a moderate heart rate zone over long periods of time. The squad has been working with “really easy yardage or short, fast, hard yardage.”

The change is intended to help the men compete in the four-day prelims and finals format event. The most important part for the swimmers is making sure their bodies stay fresh.

Sophomore Jordan Huff said it’s crucial for the swimmers “to do a lot of cool down and recovery with eating, drinking, and getting enough rest when you possibly can.”

Iowa faced Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Northwestern during the dual-meet season, with its only loss coming to the Golden Gophers.

Having seen these teams has helped the Hawkeyes prepare for their events.

“With Wisconsin and Northwestern, we know where their best events are and what they’ll be swimming and what they swim well,” Huff said.

Other teams will remain a mystery to Iowa, but the Hawkeyes will have to come out of the blocks quickly in prelims in order to swim in the finals stages at night.

“This is what this is about, just stepping up and racing and letting your natural athletic ability come out,” Long said.


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