SPORTS

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February 10, 2009

UAA Championships coming to South Side

After a break last weekend, the Maroons will again toe the line as they host the UAA Championships this Thursday through Saturday.

“It’s going to be a big production,” head coach Jason Weber said. “There are going to be over 300 swimmers and divers here and the stands will be packed—it’s going to be a fun meet to watch.”

The Maroons’ training all season has been structured so that they peak this weekend, so several athletes should put up their fastest times of the year.

Three women have already earned NCAA D-III provisional-qualifying times: second-year Ellie Elgamal in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly, first-year Tara Levens in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke, and first-year Megan St. John in the 1,650-yard freestyle.

Several other first-years are close, including Ellen Stohr in the 100-yard backstroke and 100- and 200-yard butterfly, Jacqueline Trudeau in the 100-, 200-, and 500-yard freestyle, and Laura Biery in the 500-yard freestyle, 400-yard IM, and 200-yard breaststroke.

The “A” teams of the 400-yard medley relay and the 800-yard freestyle relay also have a good chance to qualify.

The men’s side also have one provisional qualifier, with fourth-year Alex Stabell qualifying for the 100-yard butterfly.

“I think the men have a chance at some qualifiers,” Weber said. “I think this has been their best season yet, even if their record does not show that.”

Overall, Weber is confident in his teams.

“If they compete in particular races as they did at DePauw, at the UAAs, when they’re a little sharper and a little more focused, they’re going to do amazing things,” he said of the women’s team.

Weber predicts that Emory will win but that it will be a toss-up between NYU, Carnegie Melon, Wash U, and Chicago for second, third, and fourth places.

This would be a jump over last year’s fifth-place finish but in line with their recent steady improvement. The men’s squad has also finished in fifth place the past two seasons, and neither team has placed higher than fifth in the conference’s 21-year history. Still, both teams have jumped in the standings in recent years.

Weber predicted a continuation of that trend, especially for the upstart women’s squad.

“I think within a few years we can contend for the conference title,” he said.

Although such a goal may be too ambitious this year, the women’s squad has a chance to move into the top 20 in the country, depending on how many athletes they send to the NCAA Championships.

“Very few Division-III teams can qualify four or more girls for NCAA Championships,” he continued. “If we send that many or more, we can make an impact on the national scene, not just our conference.”

The jump to the top 20 would be shorter for the 23rd-ranked men’s squad, but regardless of the finish, Weber predicted a great environment for the teams’ final meet at Ratner this season.

“[The UAAs] should be the most exciting meet of the year,” Weber said.

The UAA Championships will be Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at Myers-McLoraine Pool, with the swimming events beginning at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Each day, the two segments should last about two and a half hours.