Arizona swimming and diving season starts back up
The Wildcats’ swimming and diving teams dive into the race for an NCAA championship tomorrow, competing in their first Pac-12 Conference dual meet against the Utah Utes starting at 11 a.m. in Salt Lake City.
Headed by 2013-2014 USA national team members junior breaststroker Kevin Cordes and senior freestyler Margo Geer, Arizona is in search of its first NCAA championship since 2008. The dual meet in Salt Lake City tomorrow is the first stop it will make in its journey to Austin, Texas, in December and Minneapolis, Minn., in March.
“This is the first time we get to put on our Arizona suits and go up against someone else,” said Cordes, a three-time national champion and American record-holder. “It’s time to motivate the team and use this as the first step toward the end of the year.”
While this is the first dual meet Arizona will compete in this season, Utah has already experienced a Pac-12 victory in its 168-95 win at Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore., on Oct. 11.
Head coach Eric Hansen will use this meet as an opportunity to work on speed. After focusing mainly on improving the team’s work capacity this preseason, swimmers are just now beginning to generate speed and power.
“We may be a little rusty to start, but we did have an intersquad meet, so that’s one thing under our belt,” Hansen said. “That’s to be expected, and we don’t want to be at our best right away. We want to build up to it.”
The Wildcats may be “rusty,” but they are far from inexperienced. Geer and Cordes provide a solid foundation for the UA to build a national championship caliber team. They have been able to take what they have learned from their experiences with the national team so far and channel it at the college level.
“They’re a part of something that everyone wants to be a part of, and that’s the U.S. squad,” Hansen said. “They had great summers, but they’ve both been very consistent, too, so it will be fun to watch them compete this year.”
Cordes and Geer are not the only standout swimmers on this experienced Arizona team. Senior backstroker Mitchell Friedemann and senior Giles Smith, fly/free, have represented the Wildcats in the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials, and senior diver Samantha Pickens won the 1-meter dive at the 2013 World Championship Trials last June.
“Before you come in, you hear names or kind of know people from just what other people say,” said Geer, 100m freestyle school record-holder. “But for the swimmers on the team and the coaches, everyone has mutual respect.”
In 2008, both swimming and diving teams won national team championships.
“First things first: We are all here to help win relays and help win a national title,” Cordes said.
—Follow Nicole Cousins @cousinnicole