Although the IU men’s swimming and diving team has not competed since Feb. 7, in preparation for this weekend’s Big Ten Championships its three senior captains have been anything but quiet.
“We are going to win Big Tens,” Heath Tameris said Monday at the team’s final practice before going to West Lafayette. He later added, “We are taking over this conference.”
Justin Peterfish agreed.
“We will be champions if we do what we need to get done,” Peterfish said. “I see us walking away with a title this week.”
Even Matt Lenton had a prediction.
“I have told my team that I have 100 percent confidence we are going to win this weekend,” Lenton said. “That is going to be the result.”
Those who follow Big Ten swimming and diving know that No. 7 IU is no favorite for the conference crown, considering that six of the 11 teams in the Big Ten are ranked nationally. The most notable foe, as IU coach Ray Looze pointed out, is No. 4 Michigan, who beat the Hoosiers twice this season.
“We got spanked,” Looze said. “But you go up against the best schools for a reason. They have to show up and so do we.”
IU lost to the Wolverines 227-151 Nov. 1 in Ann Arbor, Mich., and 176-104 Jan. 10 in Bloomington.
The captains said they are not arrogant. Instead, their attitude serves to feed confidence to their teammates.
They said the challenge is getting the smash-mouth mentality to drive the team’s physical ability.
“We are not favored at all,” Tameris said. “Outside the 30 or so people going with us to Big Tens, no one believes it. So the more we talk about it, the more we are preparing to win.”
Looze said the captains’ confidence will be instrumental for the team’s psyche when the three-day meet starts Thursday night.
“It’s the most important thing,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what the coaches think.”
Despite IU’s recent history against Michigan, the captains said they have good reason to believe they will give a strong showing and that their confident attitude is no act.
Tameris said each team is only allowed 21 swimmers and five divers to compete in the conference championship. As of Saturday morning, four spots needed filling, so the team held an eight-man, four-event swim-off.
“Each guy put up scores that would place top eight at Big Tens,” Tameris said. “And those are our bottom four. Yes, we lost to Michigan twice this year, but we are swimming lights-out.”
Lights-out could be useful, considering IU is unfamiliar with this year’s in-conference competition. The only other Big Ten schools they faced this season were No. 9 Ohio State, Northwestern and No. 14 Purdue. The Hoosiers were victorious in all three meets.
Regardless of this season’s successes and failures, the captains are sure IU’s past is behind them, and what they bring to Big Tens is all that matters.
“It really comes down to how we are going to approach this meet,” Lenton said. “Character is what is going to come through at the end of the day.”
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