Arizona swimming heads to Pac-12s
The Arizona swimming and diving teams jump into playoff action today with the start of the Pac-12 Conference Championships.
The women’s swimming team will compete alongside the diving team through Saturday, while the men’s swimming events begin March 5. Held in Federal Way, Wash., the championships will pit Arizona against Pac-12 powerhouses Cal and Stanford, as well as rival ASU.
For swimmers who haven’t already qualified for the NCAA Championships, the Pac-12s offer one last chance to extend their respective seasons.
“If we could get a few more individual qualifiers to [the NCAA Championships], that would really help us out a ton,” head coach Rick DeMont said. “It’s crunch time for sure.”
Members of the Arizona women's swimming team dive into the pool at the dual meet vs. Texas on Feb. 1. The Wildcats will compete for the Pac-12 championship this week.
For those who have qualified, the meet will serve as a warm-up before they race on the national stage.
Several swimmers on the women’s side have already made the cut, including senior Margo Geer, who was the 2013 NCAA champion in both the 50y and 100y freestyle events, and sophomore Bonnie Brandon, who is coming off a winning meet at ASU on Feb. 8.
The training for these swimmers will “taper” over the coming weeks so that they are in peak physical condition come nationals, Brandon said.
“It’s pretty light,” Brandon said. “We don’t do a whole lot of yardage anymore. It’s more about fine tuning your skills.”
Despite the lull in training, Brandon said she plans to swim fast for her team, which was ranked No. 10 in a recent poll by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America.
Brandon also has the added motivation of having finished fourth in the 500y free at the NCAA Championship last year.
Sophomore Rafael Quintero, who last year took home the Pac-12 title in the men’s platform event, leads the divers.
Junior diver Isabel Diamond, who was eighth place in the women’s platform event last year, said she is excited to compete against the best divers in the conference.
“It’s usually a really fun meet,” Diamond said. “It’s nice to have the whole girls’ team and dive team there. … Everyone is really supportive of each other.”
That team unity came in handy after the team’s head coach departed a month into the season for undisclosed reasons. Despite the issues, Brandon said that the team is poised to defy expectations.
“I’m looking forward to surprising some people,” Brandon said. “I expect a lot of people to step up and do some amazing things.”
—Follow Mark Armao @MarkArmao