Q&A: Iowa swimming coach Marc Long discusses Big Ten Championships

BY BEN ROSS | FEBRUARY 21, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa men's swimming and diving team is coming off of one of its most successful seasons in recent memory, and the Hawkeyes will host the men's conference championships for the first time since 1982 this week. The Daily Iowan spoke with head swimming coach Marc Long about the upcoming experience for his swimmers.

DI: What were your impressions with holding the women's championships at the home pool last week?

Marc Long: It was an exciting environment. It's different to have it on your own campus; we're not in a hotel, and we're not on a bus, so [when] we see [the championships] here for the first time, that's a little different. But swimming here in your own pool is nuts.

DI: What sort of things do you expect to be different in the men's championship?

Long: The meets have completely different personalities. They have the same intensity as far as competing. This is our qualifying meet [for the NCAA meet], and the qualifying meet for all the teams, so the intensity is there. It's not just a conference meet; we're trying to get to NCAAs.

DI : What does holding this event here mean to the university?

Long: It's a showcase for this new facility [the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center, which is in its second full year of existence]. It's the newest of the great facilities in the Big Ten. Heck, it's a showcase for the university, a showcase for Iowa City, and I'm sure the hotels and restaurants are doing quite a bit of business.

DI: What does it mean to your program?

Long: It has been 30 years since the championships were last here; it validates the fact that we can host a meet like this, but also we want to … We're building a team that wants to contend for titles, and it's a step to have a facility like this — that can host a meet like this. But then, clearly, you have to compete and beat people.

DI: Six Big Ten teams are ranked in the top 25, the most of any conference in the country. Aside from NCAAs, are the Big Ten championships are the greatest showcase of college swimming talent?

Long: Certainly the deepest. Other conferences have a little faster times potentially at the front end, but as far as absolute depth top to bottom, the Big Ten is challenging. You just said it right there; [with] six ranked teams, one hiccup, and you're looking down toward the bottom. Last year, every team in the Big Ten had an [individual or relay] NCAA qualifier; that's pretty impressive.

DI: What's the reason for the Big Ten's competitiveness?

Long: It's facilities. A lot of [the teams] have great facilities like this one, and the integrity of the championship is still there; it still means something to be a Big Ten champion. It's not solely a qualifying meet, and that's something important to recognize.

Most teams are going for it in this league. You get the Big Ten title, and in some conferences it's just a qualifying meet; they're coming in here and not as interested in the team title, [because] they just want to get people to the NCAAs. We want both.

DI: Do you approach the championships differently from a coaching standpoint than a regular-season meet?

Long: It's our peak meet of the year except for the NCAAs following this — but to get to NCAAs, you have to be on your A-game. Really at the end of the day, it's just some guys out there racing back and forth. The one the that's going to beat the other is going to move up.

Follow DI men's swimming reporter Ben Ross on Twitter.

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