Smith swims away on high note
Giles Smith wants to make some lasting memories at Hillenbrand Aquatic Center before he graduates.
The senior 10-time All-American for Arizona swimming and diving will compete in his last season home opener at 2 p.m. this Friday against UNLV, which is competing in its first meet of the year.
Smith said he knows the UA needs to capitalize on the little things after the men’s team fell to Utah last Saturday, 152-148.
“We need to execute better and focus on our details,” Smith said. “We’ve got to swim with a little bit more pride, and the races get tough, just get your hand to the wall.”
In his third season with the Wildcats, Smith — who transferred after his freshman year at Tennessee — said he believes that the home meet advantage will come into play this weekend.
Last year, the men’s team went 2-2 in dual meets at Hillenbrand. This year, it only has three dual meets at home to impress its fans.
Smith is not the only Wildcat looking forward to Friday’s meet.
Freshman distance freestylist Tyler Fowler, who won his first collegiate race in the 1000-yard freestyle on Saturday, said he is confident about hosting the Rebels but doesn’t want the hype of his first home meet to keep him from performing his best.
“UNLV has a few more distance swimmers, so it’s good to have that confidence,” Fowler said. “But it’s still swimming — it’s still just the same race — so I just have to go out and do what I do best.”
As a newcomer, Fowler said he isn’t entirely sure what to expect for Friday, but he wants to defend his home.
Hillenbrand Aquatic Center was known as McKale Pool until local businessman William G. Hillenbrand made a donation in 1989 to refurbish the facility. The outdoor pool serves as both a practice facility and meet facility for the Wildcats.
“It’s going to be really cool to compete in the pool we train in every day, just representing the University of Arizona at the University of Arizona,” said Elizabeth Pepper, a junior transfer from Florida State.
Pepper jumped into the team right away, contributing to the women’s 204-96 landslide against Utah last Saturday by winning the 100y butterfly and placing second behind senior teammate Ashley Evans in the 200y butterfly.
The women lost only one meet at Hillenbrand on their way to a fifth-place NCAA finish last year. For them, it would be ideal to capture an undefeated season at home this year.
Smith, Fowler and Pepper all agreed that in the end, the best part about swimming at home is swimming in front of fans and family. Fowler’s mother will be there to watch her son’s first home meet as a Wildcat.
“We have the parents coming out, so it will be great. Nobody wants to swim badly in front of their families,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a great, fast weekend of swimming.”
— Follow Nicole Cousins @cousinnicole