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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Swim hosts team from down under

    Everyone knows that it’s unsafe for children to run on the pool deck, but this weekend at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center, the young swimmers in attendance just couldn’t help themselves.

    When they looked at the starting blocks, the swim caps upon the competitors’ heads either read “”Arizona”” or “”AUS.””

    That’s right, A-U-S, for Australia.

    Olympians such as Northwestern University product Matt Grevers, Australia’s Stephanie Rice and Arizona’s own Lacey Nymeyer littered the final score sheets in perhaps the most exciting Southwest Classic swim invitational yet, which is hosted by the local club team, Ford Aquatics.

    “”To have the Australian team come and to kind of spice it up with great competition and pull such a great crowd is a lot of fun,”” said Nymeyer, an Olympic silver medalist. “”It’s great for swimming and the community, and it’s great for us – we get to race some of the best in the world.””

    Having the respect to garner the Australian national team’s attention was Arizona head coach Frank Busch, who has coached against the Australian team in international meets since 2000.

    “”Over a period of time we’ve just established relationships with these guys,”” Busch said. “”It just so happened where it worked out that we’re talking one day and they were talking about what their training was going to be. . .They said, ‘Let’s make this thing work.'””

    The usually low-key meet served as a tune-up for the Santa Clara International Invitational meet this weekend, which will be the last chance for swimmers across the nation to prepare for the USA trials for the world championships in Rome.

    Even without a number of Australia’s top swimmers on deck, there was no shame in how past and present Wildcat swimmers competed against their friendly foes from down under. Arizona’s men shined with a 3:18.87 second performance in the 400-meter freestyle relay over Australia’s second-place time of 3:21.57.

    “”It’s been a battle from the USA team versus Australia since ’96,”” Grevers, a three-time Olympic medalist and two-year member of Ford Aquatics, said of the 400m free relay win. “”The fact that a college team can take on Australia’s national team says a lot about this program.””

    Meanwhile, 200m and 400m individual medley record holder Stephanie Rice of Australia held off former Arizona star Whitney Myers in the 200m IM Saturday by just over two seconds and with a winning time of 2:15.54.

    “”It’s definitely is a friendly competition, and I’ve raced Whitney a lot of times before,”” Rice said. “”She’s an amazing competitor.””

    The Southwest Classic was most of the swimmers’ first meet since March and much needed. Everyone has been itching to swim in a competitive environment and are still trying to round into shape before the world championships in July.

    “”We haven’t really raced very seriously since our trials in March,”” Rice said of the Australian team. “”Tonight was very draining for me, but I’m pretty happy for where I’m at in terms of training. Hopefully, moving onto the next meet in Santa Clara, I can improve on the times I’ve done here.””

    The Australian team will wrap up their month-long stay in the United States during the next few weeks. Their trip began with three weeks of altitude training in Flagstaff before they headed south for Tucson, Rice said.

    While their days off in northern Arizona included a trip to the Grand Canyon, Rice said coming to Tucson was a welcome change.

    “”Obviously, the pools here are amazing, there’s great facilities and the weather’s been fantastic,”” she said, adding, “”We’re all going to be pretty buggered from this meet and into the next week. There’s not going to be any partying or anything like that.””

    Now, both the Arizona swimmers and the Australians will prepare for the meet in Santa Clara, Calif., where they will face the best-of-the-best, including the face of swimming, Michael Phelps.

    “”It’s a big, big meet,”” Busch said. “”That’ll be like the conference meet on steroids before NCAAs.””

    Unfortunately, the kids probably won’t be allowed on deck for that one.

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