Wisconsin prepares for conference, national meets

first_imgThis is the time of year that swimmers and divers around the Big Ten wait all-year for: the conference championships. Well, most swimmers and divers anyway.The University of Wisconsin women’s swimming and diving teams are undefeated in Big Ten meets this year at a perfect 7-0. However, maintaining that unblemished mark will not be priority No. 1 for the team Wednesday, when they begin competition in the Big Ten championships.The No. 11-ranked Badgers head into the meet with the open-minded attitude to swim well, but emerging victorious with a Big Ten Championship is not the predominant goal. No, Wisconsin has higher aspirations.”Some teams choose to make it their big meet of the year, and we don’t, because our big meet of the year is Nationals,” UW swimming coach Eric Hansen said. “We’ve come close to winning it before, but that isn’t something we want to sacrifice our shot at being the best we have ever been at the NCAAs for.”The thought is that by not resting now and practicing hard up to and through the meet, the team is building towards the NCAA Championships, which begin March 10 for divers and March 16 for swimmers. The NCAAs are more important that pushing all the athletes for wins in the Big Ten meet, possibly hurting their chances for scoring in the national meet.”We don’t talk about winning or losing it, we talk about what we want to do as a team,” Hansen said. “Our main goal is click as a team and have everyone on the same page [for Nationals], because if and when we do that, we are going to be really good.”So although the Badgers are the highest-ranked Big Ten school and undefeated against the rest of the conference, a Big Ten title for the team is still very much in doubt.”It’s hard to [win] when a lot of other teams, rest for Big Ten’s because it is their big meet,” senior captain Anna Trinidad said. “With us, we have our best swimmers who have already made their cuts not resting.”That being said, the Big Ten meet is not exactly just a dress rehearsal. Several members of the team still need to qualify for nationals and improving their times at the conference championships will be key if they hope to advance to race in Athens, Ga., a month from now.”We have a handful of girls that we think can qualify at this meet,” Hansen said, mentioning the names of Jenny Gelden, Katie Imhoff-Smith, Sarah Hernandez, Jackie Vavrek, Jennifer Illescas, and Emily Carpenter as those who are on the cusp of qualifying.The Badgers currently have five members of the team qualified for NCAA’s; freshman Yi Ting Siow, juniors Susan Johnson and Andrea Wiesner, and seniors Trinidad and Amalia Sarnecki.”We’re swimming against the clock,” Hansen said. “We’re hoping to take 12 girls [to Athens], best case scenario.” “There are a lot of girls who are saving for this, because they haven’t made their cuts yet,” Trinidad said.Even though the team is not resting many of their top competitors, they still have a chance to bring home the school’s first-ever Big Ten title.”We’ll have a shot at a few titles,” Hansen said. “Susan Johnson is going to go into it not fully prepared, but she won last year [like that]. Our sprinters are going to be fully prepared, and I would hope some of our relays would step up and be near the top too.”The Badgers are part of a group of about five teams that all have a legitimate shot at winning the title. No. 14 Penn State, No. 16 Indiana and No. 17 Purdue are the most likely candidates to leap-frog frontrunner UW and take the Big Ten team crown, though No. 22 Michigan and No. 24 Minnesota also are likely to be in the mix.For all the worrying about saving their best performances for Athens in March, Hansen and the team know that once the meet arrives and the competitive juices start flowing, anything is possible.”Once we get to the Big Ten’s, we are going to forget about [preparing for the NCAA championships], compete as a team and do as well as we can,” Hansen said.”I’m hoping to see them stand up to a challenge, take it head on and swim well as a group.”last_img