This weekend will be double the action for IU swimming and diving fans. IU will be competing in a dual meet against Cincinnati at home while 14 swimmers will make their way to Indianapolis and the IU Natatorium for the inaugural USA College Challenge.
IU Coach Ray Looze called it a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“We’re just really going to enjoy having a lot of fun with it,” Looze said of the College Challenge. “We want it to be a good experience for the student athletes. That’s why we put it together two years ago.”
The USA College Challenge will pit a team of Big Ten all stars, coached by Looze, against Team USA. The event will take place Saturday and Sunday in a short-course format. Swimmers will be allowed to compete in as many as six events.
“I think it’s a good opportunity to see where you’re at and what other things you can improve on and other things that you can change before your big meets,” junior Kennedy Goss said.
The event will also involve IU alumnus Cody Miller and graduate swimmer Zane Groth, both of whom train with the Hoosiers. Miller and Groth will compete for Team USA.
“It’s just a great way to showcase the sport of swimming,” Looze said. “USA Swimming has kind of had a golden touch. We’re going to be on live TV in the best facility the United States has to offer, the IU Natatorium, so just a great opportunity to really put the sport of swimming on a great stage.”
Back in Bloomington, the Hoosiers will welcome the Cincinnati Bearcats to the Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatic Center for a dual meet. IU will be slightly shorthanded because according to Looze those swimmers competing in Indianapolis will not be swimming against Cincinnati.
“I’m just hoping that we all come together and put up a really good meet, and it will be competitive and fun,” freshman Cassie Jernberg said.
Jernberg, who has been a pleasant surprise as a freshman point scorer for the Hoosiers, will be one to watch in Bloomington. She placed first in the 1,000-yard freestyle last week against Michigan State and second in the same event the week prior versus Tennessee and Kentucky.
“I really just want to keep the ball rolling, keep the momentum moving,” Jernberg said. “It’s different than club swimming. We’re all swimming for the good of the team, not just ourselves.”
On the men’s side, the Hoosiers will look to Michael Hixon, this week’s Big Ten Co-Diver of the Week, and their ever-so-consistent diving squad to score points, particularly with the absence of top-shelf swimming talent that is competing in Indianapolis.
“Above all we want to make sure the team is doing well, and that’s above any individual performances,” sophomore diver James Connor said. “The swimmers are off up in Indy, and we’re in need of points so hopefully we’ll be able to give that to the team, and we won’t feel the full brunt of their absence.”
IU will come into the meet ranked No. 2 in men’s and No. 13 in women’s, and Cincinnati is unranked.
"This is going to make the Cincinnati meet a lot more challenging than it normally would have been," Looze said. "But the thought process is that we want to keep everyone competing on the same weekend, so we’re doing that but spreading ourselves thin by doing so.”
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