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Men's swimming hopes to show true grit in South Bend

BY BEN ROSS | JANUARY 27, 2012 7:20 AM

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Nearly two months have passed since the Iowa men's swimming team defeated Notre Dame at the Hawkeye Invitational, and the Black and Gold will mark the occasion by traveling to South Bend, Ind., this weekend to take on the Fighting Irish at the Shamrock Invitational.

Iowa will compete against Notre Dame in a championship-style preliminary-finals format. The prelims will be today, with finals commencing tomorrow.

The last time the two teams met, Iowa placed second behind then-No. 1 Michigan with a score of 723 points. Notre Dame placed third out of the six-team field with 511 points.

The No. 14 Hawkeyes (5-2, 5-1 Big Ten) are coming off a strong win at Northwestern last week, and appear to be doing some of their best swimming of the season. The trip this weekend marks the last away meet before Iowa competes in the Big Ten Championships, to be held Feb. 22-25 in Iowa City.

This will be the third year Iowa has attended the invitational; the Hawkeyes emerged as winners at the end of each trip.

While it may be a little unusual for only two teams to compete in a championship-style meet, head coach Marc Long said he thinks it's beneficial for his swimmers to compete in such a strenuous series of races.

"You're squeezing in basically a three-and-a-half-day championship format in less than 24 hours," he said. "It's intense, it's exciting. You need to be a real gritty racer to pull it out. We think it's great preparation for our championship season coming up."

The men's team has made a name for itself in the world of college swimming this year; it was ranked as high as No. 10, and senior All-Americans Ryan Phelan and Paul Gordon have earned weekly honors for their achievements. Phelan was Big Ten Swimmer of the Week on Nov. 1, and Gordon was named collegeswimming.com's National Swimmer of the Week on Nov. 8.

Phelan echoed his coach's beliefs about the format of the meet, but he said he thinks having already bested Notre Dame may give his squad an edge.

"It's a three-day meet packed into one," the Cedar Rapids native said. "It's going to be very stressful on the body and the mind. It's nice to know where they were back in December, but we don't know what to expect now [except] we expect them to be ready. We just need to swim fast."

Swimming fast is something Iowa has excelled at this season; the Hawkeyes have posted top-10 times in three events this year.

Though Iowa did get the win last time they faced the Irish, sophomore Dustin Rhoads said the team can't discount one thing Notre Dame has that Iowa doesn't this time around: home-pool advantage.

"This time it will be in their pool," Rhoads said. "They'll be ready to go. They have a great program right now, and we're excited to have the opportunity to go there and swim. We're gearing up for a championship season; this will be an important meet to get us ready for that.

"We're just trying to get our hands to the wall first; we're not going to worry about times. That's how you win meets, I guess."


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