COLUMBIA — The Missouri Tigers swimming and diving teams face a perennially talented Florida Gators team at 2 p.m. Thursday.
The Tigers, after finishing 14th in both the men's and women's 2013 NCAA Championships, won their opening meet of the season in the annual Show-Me Showdown. They swam against seven schools including Missouri State, Lindenwood and Drury.
Missouri coach Greg Rhodenbaugh said his team is ahead of where it was last year at this time, and he expects a good showing Thursday.
"They've got incredible depth in every event and stroke," Rhodenbaugh said of Florida. "We don't really know where we are right now. This is our first dual meet, but I think we'll be able to compete with them in a lot of events."
Rhodenbaugh said the team learned a lot from the Show-Me Showdown and will continue to progress as it starts Southeastern Conference meets.
"We were a lot better this year in the Show-Me Showdown than we were last year," Rhodenbaugh said. "We have never swum against a team that is the caliber of Florida in a dual meet before, in the history of our program."
Swimmers for both the men's and women's teams are excited about the upcoming meets and the results they've had so far this season.
Katharine Ross, a freshman, swam the 100-yard breaststroke so well in the Show-Me Showdown meet that she put herself second all-time at MU and third nationally.
"I did very well compared to where my best times are," Ross said. "It's pretty much where I want to be looking towards the end of the season. I was really happy with my times."
Sam Tierney, a junior on the men's team, received first-team All-American honors last year. He is looking for more success this season.
"The big thing for me, especially with the success from last year, is to not really just ride on that but kind of build from it," Tierney said. "I have some personal goals for myself against Florida. I'd like to win the breaststrokes."
In the NCAA Championships last year, Tierney finished seventh in the 100-yard breaststroke and 10th in the 200 breaststroke.
He says his team is used to facing tough opponents and believes they can rise to this challenge.
"The Florida meet is similar to last year when we faced Georgia," Tierney said. "Going into it, it looks like they're the much better team, but it's important for us to learn how to step up against a good team like that because we can do it."
Rhodenbaugh agrees, citing overall team improvement not only this season but since he took over as coach four years ago.
"Over the last couple of years, we have done a really good job of stepping up and actually swimming to whoever we were swimming against and not swimming down to them," Rhodenbaugh said. "This would be a large step, but I think we can make a pretty large step."
Supervising editor is Erik Hall.