November 18, 2011

Ratner hosts top competition at Phoenix Invite

With the winter holidays fast approaching, the Maroons are gearing up for their largest test of the season, the Phoenix Fall Classic, with great expectations.

“I am expecting our team to win, as we should, just purely based on numbers alone,” said Maroons head coach Jason Weber. “I expect some big performances.”

Coach Weber is not alone in anticipating greatness from the Maroons over the weekend; the Maroons have high goals for themselves.

“I am expecting a huge performance from myself and the team,” fourth-year Marius Aleksa said. “Not only is our goal to win the meet, but it’s also to get some national qualifying times.”

Fellow fourth-year Robert Vanneste also looks forward to some great performances from the team.

“I think we are going to see a lot of really fast times this weekend from a lot of people on the team,” Vanneste said.

Winning the meet, however, will not be simple. The Maroons are set to face D-I and D-II teams that have the advantage of being from schools that give out athletic scholarships. Chicago, as a D-III institution, is prohibited from giving out athletic scholarships.

“This will be the first year since I’ve been here that winning this meet will not be a foregone conclusion,” said Vanneste.

“Division I University of Illinois at Chicago is bringing part of their team, and Division II Truman State and Lindenwood are both coming as well,” said fourth-year Tara Levens. “All of these programs have some fast top-end talent and will definitely keep the meet close.”

In the face of this tough competition, the Maroons still expect to perform well and to use this meet to hit NCAA qualifying standards.

“This meet is out first chance to get qualifying times for NCAAs in March. It’s a chance to put up some fast times and get ourselves into a good position going into UAAs come February,” Levens said. “Winning the meet is a goal as well, but the first priority is to put up fast times and get cuts for nationals.”

“We have a lot of swimmers who are resting and shaving and can put up some fast times,” Coach Weber said.

After the Phoenix Fall Classic, the Maroons look forward to a long break. They will not return to action until January 7, against Kalamazoo, though they will not let the lull go to waste.

“We’ve got a week off for Thanksgiving, one tough week of training before finals, low key training week during finals, and then we leave for Key Largo in Florida for our annual winter training trip December 10–18,” Coach Weber said.

“December is our time to build a solid foundation for the second half of the season and create a strong base leading up into championship season,” said Levens, who is also heading to Georgia for the USA Swimming National Championships with hopes of qualifying for the Olympic Trials.

Chicago hosts the Phoenix Fall Classic this Friday.