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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wildcats head to California in search of conference title

    UA sophomore Robert Iddiols leaps off the starting block during a dual meet win against ASU at Hillenbrand Aquatic Center on Feb. 14. The Arizona mens swimming and diving teams head to Long Beach Calif., for the Pacific 10 Conference Champions, which run today through Saturday.
    UA sophomore Robert Iddiols leaps off the starting block during a dual meet win against ASU at Hillenbrand Aquatic Center on Feb. 14. The Arizona men’s swimming and diving teams head to Long Beach Calif., for the Pacific 10 Conference Champions, which run today through Saturday.

    If last week’s women’s Pacific 10 Conference Championships provided any evidence, it’s clear that the Arizona men’s and women’s teams either have a target on their backs or aren’t up to par compared to past teams.

    Most likely, it’s the former.

    The No. 2 ranked Arizona men will face a conference field that is looking to take down the reigning national champions as they compete in their Pac-10 meet today through Saturday in Long Beach, Calif.

    “”This’ll just be very, very competitive,”” said UA head coach Frank Busch, fresh off a second-place finish for his women’s team. “”This will be all out, trying to take everything we’ve been doing and apply it to a real dress rehearsal prior to the NCAAs.””

    Arizona’s men finished in third place last year, a deceiving number considering they finished as the best team in the nation. But that is exactly how the Wildcats shape their season, aiming towards the ultimate goal of a national title.

    Nonetheless, the Wildcats will likely see some of the faster times of the season, especially with senior Nicolas Nilo and junior Joel Greenshields back after missing the fall semester.

    Arizona will use the meet to see where they currently stand, not as a way to fix major flaws. With three weeks left in the season, it’s too late for that.

    “”We’re definitely focusing on the little things now, and making a stupid mistake in a race isn’t going to fly at this point in the season,”” said team captain Jordan Smith. “”It’s the last time we can race before NCAAs, so we want to be as close to perfect as possible.””

    Although some of the swimmers won’t be shaved, many will be rested and looking to post NCAA qualifying times. While Busch was hesitant to guess which events or which swimmers could make the times, he fully expects for one or two of his athletes to surprise him.

    “”We feel like we have three or four people who have a shot (at making cuts),”” he said. “”That’s all you can do at this point in time. You just hope that maybe some kid is going to jump up and do something.””

    Arizona will face the top-ranked Stanford Cardinal – which has also won 26 straight Pac-10 titles – along with No. 7 California.

    In two of the most exciting dual meets of the season, Arizona slipped by the Golden Bears then lost to the Cardinal the following day. Smith expects a similar blow-for-blow competition in the Pac-10 meet.

    “”I’m actually, really excited,”” he said. “”It’s just fun to compete against guys that are at their best at this point (in the season).””

    Finishing in the top three positions in all five relay events last year – including wins in the 400-yard freestyle and 800y freestyle relays – Busch will play with his relay teams, looking to find the perfect combination of swimmers.

    In the individual events, the only returning Pac-10 champion is junior Jean Basson, who won the 500y freestyle in 4:15.29 seconds. Basson will also see the water in the 1650y freestyle and some relays.

    And in the diving circuit, sophomore standout Ben Grado already posted a fourth-place finish in the 3-meter springboard and a fifth-place result in the 1-meter last week during the men’s and women’s conference diving championship in Federal Way, Wash.

    As for the overall health of his team (the women were struck with an illness during their conference meet), Busch said that the men’s squad has avoided the bug.

    “”We had so many sick kids up there, it wasn’t a lot of fun,”” he said. “”So far, (the men) are looking pretty good – knock on wood.””

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