Men's swimmers excited for Big Ten play

BY BEN ROSS | OCTOBER 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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This weekend marks the beginning of the 2011-12 season for the up-and-coming Iowa men's swimming team.

Iowa will hold its annual intrasquad Black and Gold meet at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Campus Wellness & Recreation Center. The meet will serve as a warm-up for the team and introduce the new swimmers to dual-meet protocol. The meet is also unusual because the captains — seniors Ryan Phelan and Paul Gordon and sophomore Kyle Noser — pick the teams and decide which events their teammates will swim.

The Hawkeyes will try to improve on what was already a wildly successful 2010-11 season; they finished ranked No. 24 among men's Division-I teams after posting a 7-1 record in dual meets, including a 3-1 tally in Big Ten events.

Iowa will also try to build on the performance of its four returning All-American swimmers. Phelan, Gordon, Duncan Partridge, and Jordan Huff qualified for the NCAA championships in the 400 free relay and finished 15th overall, earning them All-American status.

Head coach Marc Long said he's excited about the upcoming season, citing the progress his squad made from last year.

"We're getting better and better each year," he said. "Swimmers are getting more experience; we still have some younger guys here that are learning the ropes, but we're excited about the progress that they are making."

Iowa's first real competition will come against Wisconsin on Oct. 20 in Madison. The Hawkeyes will then return to Iowa City to take on Michigan State. The schedule will heat up after that — Long's squad has dual meets slated against three teams that ended the 2011 season in the top 20 — No. 15 Minnesota, No. 19 Purdue, and No. 10 Ohio State.

Phelan said he looks forward to getting in the pool against his teammates for the Black and Gold meet and is ready to partake in some healthy intrasquad competition.

"I feel great about [the meet]," the Cedar Rapids native said. "Next Saturday is going to be a good testament to our freshman, [because] it will get them orientated and acquainted with our dual-meet system. It will be a good push forward, build some good team chemistry, and it will be some good, healthy competition against each other. We're all one team at the end of the day, but competing against the team you practice with is always a plus."

In addition to the four returning All-Americans, Iowa also has last year's top performers in 13 of 14 individual events coming back. With all that talent back in Iowa City this season, Partridge said, he has some lofty goals for his squad after the improvements made from 2010-11.

"We're improving from year to year," he said. "Last year, we broke down some barriers by going to NCAAs for the first time. We want to finish at least top-five in the Big Ten and go undefeated in our dual meets at home.

"Everyone is really ready to start racing; we're looking to improve our times and win Big Ten titles in the relay and individual events."

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