December 4, 2012

First time’s the charm: rookies leading way in promising season

After finishing first of 11 teams at the Phoenix Fall Classic, the South Siders are poised to dominate once they return to the pool in the winter. Powered by a squad of determined freshmen, the Maroons are in a strong position to capture first place at the UAA Conference Championships on February 13–16.

The men’s team is currently ranked sixth in the NCAA, according to national rankings. Co-captain Kevin Chen believes this early success is partly attributable to an unusually gifted group of first-years.

First-years James Taylor, Brian Bunning, and Matthew Veldman all set school records at the Phoenix Fall Classic held November 16–18. Taylor, who set a record in the men’s 100-yard breaststroke, believes strong team dynamics will contribute to their success. “The team gets along together really well both in and out of the pool, and there’s enough friendly competition that everyone stays motivated,” Taylor said.

The Maroons will not rest over winter break. The men are heading to Puerto Rico for a week of training that includes 4-6 hours of swimming, lifting, and plyometric exercises every day. The South Siders will have a chance to prove themselves at the Chicago Invitational on January 11–12 and against DI University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee the following weekend. The UW–Milwaukee team boasts several Olympic trial qualifiers, so the match-up will be good preparation for the rest of the season.

The Maroons will face an early test when they head to Greencastle, Indiana to compete against DePauw University on January 26. The last time the Maroons swam against the Tigers in an away meet, they were handed their worst defeat from a DIII rival in the past four years. Co-captain Denver Barrows says this year “is about paying that favor back to them.” He believes the Maroons will dominate the strokes, but will need to stay competitive in freestyle events in order to give the Maroons a chance of defeating a team that has consistently thwarted Chicago in the past.

According to Barrows, this is a season to watch. “There is an intense belief in each other’s abilities this year; you can feel it on the pool deck, in practice, and every time we are competing. The desire is unmatched, and every practice demonstrates that. I just can’t wait to see what we are going to do in February.”

Neither can we.