The Missouri swimming teams are looking to make a statement in the Big 12 Conference.
The Tigers are participating in the annual Big 12 Conference Relays today in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State hosts Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas and Texas A&M.
The meet consists of A, B and C relays. Only the A relay counts toward a team’s score.
“It’s a different kind of a meet,” MU coach Brian Hoffer said. “Everyone will swim about six times, which is a lot. We get to look for how good and how fit each swimmer is at a high level.”
After his teams placed third last year, Hoffer expects them to place in the top three or four. Hoffer predicts Texas, whose men’s team has three world-record holders, will win the relays.
The team record is unaffected by the relays.
“It’s a good chance for the team to get together and cheer each other on while experiencing some good competition,” senior Rebecca Wolfe said.
Wolfe, a two-time Big 12 champion, qualified this summer in the 200 butterfly to compete in the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Junior Matt North also qualified for the 2004 Olympic Trials this summer in the 200-meter breaststroke. In the annual Black and Gold meet Sept. 19, North broke a meet record in the 100 breaststroke in 57.14 seconds.
“North improved the most from the end of last year,” Hoffer said. “It’s pretty good seeing him in practice doing some great things. He’s one to keep an eye out for this year.”
In the women’s first meet Oct. 11, Hoffer took some of the freshmen. The relays will be the first opportunity for many of the freshmen to gauge the competition.
“I know what (my returning) swimmers can do; they’ve been here before,” Hoffer said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the freshman guys and ladies, see how they respond to training. The first year is always the toughest adapting. “
Jason Lyons, from Riverside, Calif., is among the top freshmen. Lyons, a middle distance swimmer, was a state champion at Riverside Poly High. Senior captain Tyler Belanger said Lyons and each of the other three freshmen bring a needed element to the team. The team lost five seniors last year, including Matt Ferrarelli, an NCAA championship qualifier.
“We don’t know how Lyons is going to do because he hasn’t raced, but it’s going to be exciting to see him,” Hoffer said.
Wolfe, Sara Lo and Andrea Nigh return to this year’s team after qualifying for the NCAA championships.
The women’s team was 13-1 in dual meets last season, and the men were 5-5.