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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Men to swim for 1st title

    Senior Adam Ritter swims the backstroke in the 200-yard medley relay in Arizonas win over ASU Feb. 3 at Hillenbrand Aquatic Center. Ritter is the only remaining Pac-10 champion on the team, as he was a part of last years 800y freestyle relay team.
    Senior Adam Ritter swims the backstroke in the 200-yard medley relay in Arizona’s win over ASU Feb. 3 at Hillenbrand Aquatic Center. Ritter is the only remaining Pac-10 champion on the team, as he was a part of last year’s 800y freestyle relay team.

    Zero. That’s how many times the No. 5 Arizona men’s swimming team has won the Pacific 10 Conference title since 1984.

    And after the No. 4 women’s team captured its second straight title Saturday night, the men (6-3, 3-2) have a “”hard act to follow,”” according to senior Adam Ritter, the only reigning Pac-10 champion in the 800-yard freestyle relay.

    But UA head coach Frank Busch said the Wildcats’ 22-year losing streak is more a matter of choice than a matter of inability, as the team’s focus is on the ultimate bragging rights: the national championship.

    “”We’d rather have a big piece of wood (the NCAA trophy) out there than the tongue depressors that you get for winning the conference,”” said Busch, who led the Wildcats to a runner-up finish in the NCAA Championships last year.

    “”(The swimmers would) rather be an All-American than an All-Pac-10. They’d rather be a national champion than a Pac-10 champion.

    “”That’s just kind of the way we’ve always approached it.””

    While finishing in the top five slots every year, the team has never been able to beat out high-caliber teams like Stanford, which has taken the title every season since 1982 – 24 years in a row.

    “”We don’t really rest for the meet,”” junior Albert Subirats said. “”Stanford and (California) do.

    “”So, I think they have an advantage over us in this meet,”” he added. “”They get ready for this meet, while we just kind of start getting ready for nationals.””

    Ritter said the Cardinal uses the Pac-10 meet, which will run today through Saturday in Seattle, to make NCAA time standards. The Wildcats already qualified 10 swimmers for the NCAAs at the Texas Invitational Nov. 20 through Dec. 2.

    Stanford isn’t the only thing standing in the way of the men’s team, as questions of the team’s youth and depth still loom, Ritter said.

    “”A team like ours, we have a relatively small group of guys compared to other Division I programs, and at the conference level, it really depends on the depth that you have, which is why we’re able to be successful at NCAAs with 10 or 11 guys,”” he said. “”But unless you have a strong group of guys … that’s what you really need to win on the conference level.””

    The team will also be without last year’s four seniors and national champions Lyndon Ferns, Simon Burnett, Tyler DeBerry and Dave Rollins.

    “”It’s hard to replace four national champions, but we’ve got some pretty serious freshmen on this team,”” Busch said. “”We’ve got some good leadership with Adam and (junior) Ivan (Barnes).

    “”That will be important because we’re taking eight guys who have never seen this meet before, and they’re going to be thrown into something pretty dang fast,”” he added.

    As the only senior on the team, Ritter said his freshmen teammates have been looking to him for guidance because he has the most experience on the team.

    “”(The freshmen) were asking me about the meet, and I can only describe to them what the championship atmosphere is like to a degree, and some of these guys have national experience,”” he said.

    “”But in a team atmosphere … it’s not something that many of these guys are used to, and I try to talk to them and tell them what they expect, but you really don’t know what you’re getting into until you’re there, swimming in the meet, seeing the teams on deck,”” he added.

    Despite recently ending its dual-meet season, the team has had a couple of weeks to back off of training and take a breather in hopes that the swimmers can clock faster times.

    “”We’re working on getting people to swim fast,”” Busch said. “”Will they be ‘lights-out’ for the conference meet? No.

    “”Will they be fast? Heck yeah. We’ll be fast.””

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