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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Arizona swims into treacherous waters

    In the last month, the Arizona swim and dive teams have had two meets that are comparable to a midnight dip in the ocean – now, they’ll be swimming with sharks.

    They square off in Tucson against highly-regarded California today at 2 p.m. and will go head-to-head with Pacific 10 Conference powerhouse Stanford on Saturday at noon at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center.

    “”These are both great teams coming in,”” said head coach Frank Busch. “”This is what makes our conference so good, because of teams like this.””

    And Busch is not throwing praise around lightly.

    In the current NCAA men’s rankings, Stanford, Arizona and California come in at third, fourth and fifth places, respectively. For the women, Stanford is second in the nation with California ranked fourth and Arizona coming in seventh.

    With all three teams in the top 10, expect those rankings to change after the weekend is over. Though the Wildcats would love to come out with a victory in each of the dual meets, the task is, realistically, very difficult.

    “”We just want to compete well,”” Busch said. “”These are two really good teams, and being the defending national champions like we are, they’ll be up for us. They’ll come ready to go.””

    Seemingly, the Wildcats’ expectations are always kept into perspective. If they swim to their capabilities, coaches, swimmers and divers alike will remain positive, win or lose.

    And if they do swim to their potential, anything could happen in this collision of some of the world’s best swimmers.

    One of the big names swimming at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center is Arizona’s own Lara Jackson, who holds the American 50-yard freestyle record. On the opposing squad, Stanford has an equally impressive swimmer in Julia Smit, who has a mouthful of accomplishments.

    Smit is a 12-time all-American, an American record-holder in the 200-meter individual medley, world record-holder in the 400m individual medeley and a Beijing Games silver medalist.

    The UA men will have their first significant meet with Nicolas Nilo and Joel Greenshields, who both took a semester off to recover from Olympic duties.

    Against the Golden Bears, they will be matched against Pac-10 Swimmer of the Month Nathan Adrian. Adrian won an Olympic gold by taking part in the preliminary round of the 400m freestyle relay in Beijing – Michael Phelps and Jason Lezak were added to that 400m freestyle relay team in the finals, winning in one of the most dramatic races of the Olympics.

    Looking at the diving events, Arizona’s level of competition will not be much easier than in swimming.

    In men’s diving, Wildcat Ben Grado will challenge California’s Tom Henninger, who claimed the Pac-10 Diver of the Month for December. For the women, Ainsley Oliver will go up against Stanford’s Carmen Stellar, who is pushing for an NCAA berth.

    In the end, this weekend will prove as a brief measuring stick for Arizona. Even so, the team will not be discouraged if it does not come out with two wins.

    When asked if he would do anything differently in preparing for two difficult meets, Busch said the focus remains to improve until the end of the season, with eyes set on the NCAA championships.

    “”We’re just going to do this and we’re not changing anything for training,”” he said. “”We’re going to rest a little bit as we go, but this is going to be a tough weekend.””

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