Focusing on times, not places may help more Mavs qualify for nationals
Colorado Mesa University swim coach Brian Pearson wants to make sure his swimmers remember they’re racing against the clock, not necessarily the competition.
It’s their times, not their placings, that get swimmers spots in the national championships, and after two swimmers and a pair of divers got a taste of that last season, Pearson wants more.
“I think we’re going to be pretty good,” he said. “Better than last year’s team on both sides. With that said, the fact that we had four national participants, we’re keeping our fingers crossed.
“If we can get a half-dozen to a dozen, that would be great.”
Very few swimmers achieve “A cut” times, which are automatic qualification times, so most get in on the “B cut” list. The NCAA swimming committee takes all of the B times for each event and invites swimmers from those lists to fill in the heats.
“Waiting to see that invitation process for B cut kids is a nerve-racking process,” Pearson said. “Only one or two kids per event make the A cuts at meets.”
The lower the time on the B cut list, the better chance swimmers have to reach nationals.
Jaclyn McMillen and Kelly Hogan made the women’s national meet last season and both return, McMillen for her senior year, Hogan for her junior season.
Brock Martin, the Mavs’ All-American diver, is only a sophomore, but their other national meet diver, Liam Acosta, decided not to return to school this year. In his place is freshman Ryan Popp, who Pearson said can be every bit the diver Acosta was.
The Mavericks host their second annual Intermountain Shootout on Friday and Saturday at El Pomar Natatorium, facing Division I competition in both the men’s and women’s meet.
Air Force and Utah will face CMU in the men’s meet, with Colorado State and Northern Colorado in the women’s meet.
“We might win a couple of events, and we’ll hold our own in most events. It gives us an opportunity to swim against the clock and come away with some wins and confidence going into the next two trips we have,” Pearson said. “Just being able to swim up against Division I teams makes us feel more confident going into Division II meets.”
Pearson said the Mavericks won about 30 percent of events against Division I swimmers last season, and that number shot up to 80 percent against Division II schools.
The third-year men’s program has been steadily building, and this year the Mavericks have depth and experience despite having no seniors on the roster.
Junior sprinters Kent Stavrakas and Daniel MacDonald, junior middle-distance man Scott Stehlow, sophomore sprinter Justin White and sophomore butterfly specialist Alejandro Hernandez return.
Austin Detra, a sophomore transfer from the University of Florida, was on the fifth-place team at the NCAA championships and had a Division I B cut time in the 1,650 freestyle.
“He hasn’t been a surprise,” Pearson said. “On the other side, he had his tonsils out and missed a week of practice and his dad was training for a triathlon in Florida and was hit by a car. He went home to be with him and missed another week, so he’s a little behind.”
Pearson expects Peter Szekely, Sonny Hapgood, Ryan Kawano, Ryan Dake, Brett Lowe and Jacob Smith to contribute right away on the men’s side.
For the women, in their seventh year of existence, four seniors will lead the way — the McMillen twins, Jaclyn and Jordan, Katie Wedel and Gina Panacci. Pearson expects sophomore Briana Purkapile to score plenty of points this season.
“She’s versatile,” he said. “She likes the 200 and 100 free and 200 (individual medley) but she can swim about anything. She’s a hard worker and been in the shadow of the four senior girls, but she’s gonna come into her own this year.”
Robyn Meeks, Katie Odiorne, Ashley Ochsner, Kieran Bender and Stephanie Cook should provide some added depth, as long as they remember it’s clock, not competition.
“It’s an education process,” Pearson said. “We go through it again and again. Every year with the freshmen, they’ll go slower before they go faster. They get tired and torn down and they want to swim their lifetime best every meet.”