Thousands of hours of training, hundreds of swimmers, 21 events, 10 teams, one conference champion: Welcome to the show.
The women’s swimming and diving team will compete in the Mountain West Conference Championships today in Oklahoma City, Okla. The four-day meet signals an end to the season, when each team brings its best game and ultimately one team is crowned conference champion.
“Conference is everything – it’s what the whole season is all about,” said Head Coach John Mattos. “You’ll see the fastest times of the year at this meet.”
Last year, CSU left the meet with an uncharacteristic sixth place finish. This year, Mattos said the team is aiming to better that stigma by placing in the top five.
“I just have a good feeling about this meet,” said senior co-captain Chandra Engs. “I know we’re better than last year; I know we’re better than some of the other teams out there.so I definitely think we’re going to be up there.”
Going into conference, CSU (4-4 conference) is ranked fifth in the MWC standings behind Utah, Brigham Young, Wyoming and UNLV, respectively. However, Mattos said the standings don’t matter at conference and act only as “bragging rights.”
According to both the standings and Mattos, Utah – last year’s conference champs – and BYU will be the two teams vying for first place. CSU, UNLV, Wyoming and Texas Christian are the next round of teams to keep tabs on.
Each team has certain advantages over the others; Mattos said CSU is no different. With the exception of BYU, CSU has won more championships than any other conference team.
“We have the advantage of longevity of success in the conference championships,” Mattos said. “Everyone knows we swim fast at championships, so we’re always a team to watch out for.
“But along with that you’ve got a desire for other teams to beat us, so we have to rise above, make sure we’re on our game and not let down.”
Individually, senior co-captain Brette Winegarner and freshman Jen Muniz will swim the team’s highest seeds. Winegarner is third and sixth in the 100- and 200-yard backstrokes, respectively; and Muniz is fourth and fifth in the 200-yard butterfly and 200-yard individual medley, respectively.
Top eight seeds include junior Tara Staley and freshman Nora Kennedy in the 100-yard butterfly, and freshman Victoria Curtis in the 100-yard breaststroke. In every relay event, CSU is slotted in fifth place.
For the team’s seniors, Winegarner and Engs, the meet holds special meaning as it is potentially the last swimming event of their careers. Mattos said he expects the two seniors to help adapt the 14 freshmen to the conference atmosphere by keeping them “focused and even keeled.”
Despite their apparent conference inexperience, Engs said she has no worries about the freshmen’s conference performance.
“This is probably the best freshmen class I’ve seen,” Engs said. “They are so talented with so much variety and depth.that it will have a huge impact on the team.”
For the past few weeks, the women have been in a taper stage in their training, meaning a lessening of yardage and overall time in the pool. Mattos said the idea is the taper combined with a positive attitude will equal success.
“It’s just a matter of the meet,” Mattos said. “If they’re relaxed and they’re loose then they’re ready to send a message.
“We’re going to see some great things happen.”
Swimming and diving beat reporter Amanda Schank can be reached at email@example.com.
For more MWC information or to keep updated with the real-time conference results, check out www.themwc.com.