13 Hawkeye swimmers heading to Olympic trials


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Paul Gordon has done it all before, but this time he's not alone.

Gordon qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic swimming trials, along with 12 of his Iowa teammates. The graduated Hawkeye also made it to the meet in 2008, but he went as an individual swimmer. Only one then-current Iowa swimmer was there.

But 13 Hawkeye swimmers will travel to Omaha next week to compete in the trials. It's the first year that Iowa has traveled to the event fielding team.

"I remember seeing other Big Ten teams that had a lot more swimmers, and I remember thinking, 'I hope in 2012 that I'll have a team to go with,' " Gordon said. "Well, look at this. I got my wish."

Only two female athletes qualified compared with 11 males — 13 including Manuel Belzer and Duncan Partridge, who will compete in trials for the German and Canadian teams, respectively.

But Emily Hovren and Daniela Cubelic are content to be the only women making the trip, for now.

"I think our men's team is in a little different spot than our women's team right now," Cubelic said. "But the fact that we have two girls going shows that we're on the right track … In the next four years, it won't even be a comparison to what we have now."

Hovren and Cubelic have been training partners all season, so going to Omaha as a pair means even more to them. Cubelic earned her qualifying cut last summer, then pushed Hovren in practice to get hers this year, too.

"Every day she was next to me and pushed me," Hovren said. "She helped me a lot with my backstroke in the [individual medley], which definitely helped me make the cut. It's something really special that we're doing this together, that all the pushing each other is paying off."

The satisfaction of making it to the meet might have to be enough for some of the Hawkeyes. The Olympic committee only takes the top two finishers from the trials to London, and the Iowa swimmers will have to race competitors as fast as Michael Phelps and Peter Vanderkaay.

"As a coach, you always want to say, 'Go for it,' and we do say that, we train for it. But in the U.S., we've got to beat some people who are pretty big names just to be able to go because they only take two," head Iowa coach Marc Long said. "We just train to do your absolute best and peak at the right time. No matter what happens, the carryover is going to help us going into next season."

A talented senior class — including four of the Olympic hopefuls — will leave the program.

But that leaves 11 Hawkeyes who will have swam in the biggest American swimming meet, perhaps the most competitive meet in the world. Just the experience of being there will boost the Hawkeyes come next college season.

"The look on their faces when they get this cut is amazing, because this meet means so much," Long said. "There's nothing else like this in U.S., not even internationally. It's like an NBA game for every race. It's crazy how big it's been every year, and this year a ton of Iowa athletes get to go … It will all carry over into our next college season — it's going to help our program."

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