COLUMBIA — “The team may be fatigued, but they still need to perform,” MU swim team head coach Brian Hoffer said. “Their legs may be a little heavy, they may be hurting a little, they might not be feeling as light in the water as they’d like.”
The MU swim team has faced a tough six weeks as they come towards the end of their season and the Big 12 Swimming Championships in roughly a month.
“We did some tough sets and dry land – both mentally and physically tough,” senior Sarah Menefee said of a week long training trip to Phoenix, where the team trained about five hours a day. “It was challenging, and it connects to how we’re performing in January.”
Hoffer said this year’s 11 seniors have “talked to the team about how to handle this time of the year and done some strong things behind the team. They’ve done a better job than probably any year I’ve been here.”
That’s a strong statement coming from a coach in his 16th year at MU, but his swimmers supported his assessment.
“It’s nice to have people who have been at the big meets to help you deal with stress and nervousness,” freshman Lauren Lavigna said. “They give advice and tips on technique and your stroke at practice. You listen because they’ve been doing it for so long.”
That leadership paid off on Saturday, when the men beat Iowa 183-117 and the women rolled to a 156-86 victory over the Hawkeyes on Senior Day.
Cameron Sellers, a redshirt freshman who missed last season after getting knee surgery and is swimming in his “first real season,” echoed Lavigna’s sentiment, saying, “The seniors keep the team motivated through practice and at meets. We’ve had three months of tough training, and the seniors have been encouraging. They keep the team together.”
Menefee said the seniors feel a responsibility to be leaders on the team.
“This senior class has a lot of talent in the pool, but above and beyond that, there’s leadership in the classroom and socially in leading by example,” she said. “Coming in, freshmen always look up to the older swimmers. The leaders on this team show the younger kids you need to support each other.”
The men have won five of six dual meets and the women four of four since the team returned from Phoenix on Jan. 8, and both teams are currently ranked No. 20.
Hoffer stopped short of saying that the team’s success would carry over to the conference meet, to be held Feb. 27 through March 1. “Win-or-lose the dual meets, you’re preparing yourselves to have your best meet at the end of the season,” Hoffer said. “You want to perform at the highest level at the end. The mental aspect, the leadership, the conditioning, the technique, they’re all small challenges on the way to going to the Big 12 Championships.”
As for Saturday’s meet, Hoffer was pleased with team’s performance and fitness level at this point in the season.
“We knew coming in that Iowa was a young team,” Hoffer said. “Our experience came through for us; we’re a seasoned team.”