IU swimmers compete for national spots

IU swim and dive will compete separately for the second time this season as national competition begins for the 2015-16 season. Five IU swimmers will compete in Federal Way, Washington, in the AT&T Winter National Championships, while the remaining athletes will stay in Bloomington for the Hoosierland Invitational.

Junior Anze Tavcar, sophomore Blake Pieroni, sophomore Kennedy Goss and freshmen Lilly King and Miranda Tucker will compete Dec. 3-5 for an opportunity to qualify for the 2016 United States Olympic team.

Pieroni will be racing in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle and 200 individual medley during three days of competition.

“I am too nervous for this meet,” Pieroni said. “This level of competition motivates and excites me. Expectations are to get as close to lifetime bests as possible and see where I rank with the rest of the country.”

IU’s five swimmers have entered 19 different events in hopes of reaching their goals. Despite the level of competition they are facing this weekend, Pieroni said nothing too drastic has changed mentally or in practice. He has been working on fine-tuning his race strategy for one of the biggest meets of his life.

“In my age group, Junior Nationals was always my biggest goal,” Pieroni said. “Whether it was getting the cuts, making finals or trying to win. Now that I’m older, my focus has shifted to nationals and I’m very excited to compete this weekend.”

The remaining IU swimmers and divers will also compete Dec. 3-5 at the Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatic Center. The team will face Cincinnati and the University of Pacific, with some of the IU pro swimmers also making an appearance.

In its first meet of this season, IU defeated Cincinnati on the men’s side, 157-135, and the women won, 186-105.

Junior Gia Dalesandro said the team is looking at the long-course style in the morning and short-course style in the evening as a big chance to hit trial times and NCAA or Big Ten qualifying cuts.

“This is more of an individual-based meet to get our times down against some pretty good competition,” Dalesandro said. “It will be a little bit of a challenge for me because I love the aspect of the team meets competing for team points.”

With five of IU’s top swimmers competing in Washington, Dalesandro said the relays and medleys are the aspects that will be affected and hurt the most.

After a much-needed break during Thanksgiving, Dalesandro said she feels rested and ready to take on the rest of the schedule before the fall semester comes to a close.

“We are at the point in our season where we are really focused on starts, turns and strokes, rather than swimming a lot of yards,” Dalesandro said. “I already have a qualifying time in the butterfly, so this weekend I’m hoping to get a trial cut time in the long-course with the breaststroke and NCAA-cut times in the yard events.”

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