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Women's swimming leaning on youth, not experience

BY TORK MASON | JANUARY 31, 2012 7:20 AM

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Many successful teams, in all sports, rely on experience. Lessons learned from past mistakes can prove beneficial when it gets down to crunch time.

But the freshman class of the Iowa women's swimming and diving team has hit the ground — or water, in this case — running.

Thirteen of the team's 32 members are freshmen, including 12 of the 26 swimmers; for comparison, there are only three seniors on the swimming and diving roster. The newcomers have been expected to fill major roles on the team, and they have met those expectations both in and out of the water.

"It's obviously had a tremendous impact — I mean, look in the water," head coach Marc Long said. "When nearly half the team is new to our program, it certainly has an influence."

Nine of the freshmen have occupied spots on relay teams, including Heather Arseth, who anchors both the 200-medley and the 400-freestyle relays. Both teams have posted NCAA "B" qualifying times this year.

The best newcomer this season has been Becky Stoughton. The Peoria, Ill., native has broken school records in the 200, 500, 1,000, and 1,650 freestyles, as well as in the 400 individual medley. She has claimed victory in all but one of her individual races this year.

But senior captain Danielle Carty said the freshmen have made their biggest impact out of the water.

"They've really changed the team dynamic," she said. "When they come into practice, they're not going to the back of the lanes — they're leading and pushing us. At the beginning of the year, there's usually that weird transition, but they were able to situate themselves really quickly."

Daniela Cubelic said the new group has exhibited a level of maturity she called "unusual" for first-year swimmers.

"They've really brought a lot in terms of team spirit," the senior captain said. "They're loud and not intimidated by the older girls, which is nice, considering [how many team members] are freshmen."

Long said the class brings an air of confidence that is beneficial in dual meets. The freshmen don't usually ask questions, he said; they just get on the blocks and race, whatever it takes.

Stoughton and Arseth have had their share of success this season, but both said they never expected things to play out like they have.

"I didn't have a lot of expectations for myself, coming in," Stoughton said. "I was just like, 'Hang in there until the end.' "

"Things have gone a lot better than I think a lot of us had even hoped for," Arseth said.

One of the biggest adjustments for many of the freshmen was pushing through the intensity of their training. Arseth said most of them had never done much with weights, and the intensity of the dry-land work — not to mention the intensity of Big Ten swimming — was something to which they had to adjust.

Long praised Carty and Cubelic — the lone senior swimmers — and their leadership in a time when guidance was at a premium, and he has high hopes for the future of the new class.

"I have to credit the upperclassmen for being able to handle such an influx of people and maintain the team chemistry," he said. "We just want to build on this racing attitude and continue to start new traditions."


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