SPORTS

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January 16, 2009

Squads have chance to regain poise at Chicago Invitational

As a deep freeze sweeps across the nation, men’s and women’s swimming are just warming up.

They took some time to tune-up after coming back from winter break. The men were upset by Kalamazoo last Saturday and both teams looked tired after their first week back to practice. Now that they’re back in the swing of competition, both sides are looking for their first home wins of the season at this weekend’s Chicago Invitational.

“It’s tough for some swimmers to get back on the schedule, to get back in the tough training,” head coach Jason Weber said. “Now that we’re back on the routine, I think it’s going to be a lot better for us this weekend.”

If last year is any indication, both teams should finish the weekend with wins.

Last season, the men’s team used the Chicago Invitational to flex its muscles, thoroughly overwhelming the field of 11 teams. With a score of 1282, the Maroons nearly doubled their closest competitor’s score, as IIT finished a distant second with 670. The women’s team, meanwhile, faced much closer competition but still emerged with first place, with their 831 points edging UW–Oshkosh’s 799.5.

This season’s stiffest competition comes from Lincoln’s men’s team and Calvin’s women’s team, according to Weber.

The coach said that wins at the Invitational will take much better performances than last weekend. That’s because both teams will be short-handed this weekend, with several members sick or injured, and some top swimmers will race in off-events.

The fourth-year combination of Alex Stabell and Shane Carlson, two of the men’s top scorers this season, will be swimming off-events, but Weber is still confident that they will score well for the Maroons. Second-year Ellie Elgamal will also swim off-events and should also score.

Although the men’s team expects another sound victory at the Invitational, Weber said that a repeat of last weekend’s sluggish performance could send the squad to its second straight surprise, this time at the hands of Lincoln.

“They have a lot of great sprinters, and they’re pretty deep in the freestyles, in the sprint events,” Weber said. “Overall we’ve got a few more swims that will score, but if they swim really well and we swim okay, it’s going to be pretty close.”

Talk of an upset may just be the coach’s way of motivating a team that came out last weekend lacking in enthusiasm. The last time the men swam against Lincoln, the Maroons won soundly, outscoring the Lynx by a 988.5­–720 margin.

The women expect defeating Calvin to be a taller task. The nation’s 25th-best team according to collegeswimming.com, Calvin is expected to provide serious competition for first place at the meet.

“Calvin College has a really good women’s squad,” Weber said. “Some of the top swimmers in the country are on their team, so they’re going to pose a pretty big challenge.”

As they have all season, the Maroons will be counting on Elgamal and first-years Tara Levens and Jacqueline Trudeau for major points. Levens is coming off a record-setting performance in the 100-yard breaststroke at Kalamazoo, while Elgamal just posted an NCAA provisional qualifying time in the 100-yard butterfly.

Only in their second week out of winter break, the Maroons expect to be back to pre-break form this weekend. While both teams are certainly looking for faster times as they go deeper into the season, the Maroons hope that wins this weekend will provide them with a boost heading into the final stretch of the season, so they can peak at the UAAs.

“It’s an important time for us in terms of training and racing,” Weber said. “When I talk to the swimmers about racing this weekend and over the last few meets, I really talk to them about doing the little things right: Good turns, good starts, don’t get sloppy with the technique, because that’s the stuff that’s really going to make a big difference at the conference championship.”