A vastly improved Wisconsin men's swimming and diving squad will hit the waters for the first time this season later this month, and under the direction of second-year head coach Whitney L. Hite, the Badgers will look to build on a group of solid returners and a promising freshmen class.
After finishing eighth at the Big Ten meet last season, Hite is not shy about saying the expectations are much higher for his team this season. Hite regards this season's squad as a top-20 program and expects them to finish in the top half of the Big Ten.
"It would not surprise me if we were a top-20 team," Hite said. "The expectation is for us to be better than we were last year and our mindset is to do anything we can to get there."
The expectation of success this season has already been thoroughly discussed and Hite will do all in his power to make sure the 2012 Badgers peak at the right time, including putting together one of the deepest and most challenging schedules in recent years.
The men begin 2012 in East Lansing, Mich., on Sept. 28, competing against Michigan State before traveling to Ann Arbor the following day to take on national-power Michigan.
"I don't think I've ever been associated with a team that's had meets in September, so that's a very early start," Hite said. "And certainly in traveling to take on Michigan State and Michigan, we're facing a great test right off the bat."
Following home meets against UW-Milwaukee and UW-Green Bay, the Badgers will travel to Minnesota before making the trip west to take on Stanford and California, two of the country's top programs, on separate dates.
Hite stocked the 2012 slate with trips to Stanford, USC and California, among others, hoping to build his team's confidence and work level heading into February and March.
"If you look at our overall schedule, it's stronger than it was last year," Hite stated. "My main concern is making sure that everyone is prepared when we get to the Big Ten and NCAA meets."
ollowing a home meet against Northwestern on Nov. 8, the Badgers will hit the road for an invitational with Big Ten foe Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio. Hite believes this is the premiere meet of the fall semester and believes his squad will bode well after a few days of rest. The Ohio State Invitational will provide a good measuring stick of where the team is and where they want to be heading into the holiday break and the new year.
With a semester of swimming under their belts, the team will train in Hawaii for 10 days while taking on the University of Hawai'i on Jan. 5. The big test comes seven days later, when the Badgers head back to the mainland to take on USC in Los Angeles.
"I believe if you want to be the best you have to go out and seek the best," Hite said. "We aren't timid or afraid of anyone -- we'll go out and swim anyone, anytime."
In what will be UW's final tune-up for their last home meet and the Big Ten Championships, the Badgers will swim against perennial-powers Virginia and Virginia Tech on Jan. 25 and 26, respectively, before heading back to Madison for their final home meet, the Big Ten Quad Duals, on Feb. 1-2. After finishing its season at home in early February, the men will make the trip to Bloomington, Ind., on Feb. 27-March 2 for the Big Ten Championships. Those who swim and qualify will move on to the 2012 NCAA Championships in Indianapolis, Ind.
Badgers to Watch:
Wisconsin is led by its senior co-captains, Dan Lester and Michael Weiss, who both had successful campaigns during the summer as Weiss was recently named to the U.S. National Team and will compete at the 2012 Short Course World Championships from Dec. 12-16 in Istanbul, Turkey, as well as the 2013 World University Games in Kazan, Russia.
Lester, who made an appearance at the Australian Olympic Trials prior to the 2012 Summer Games, is poised for an outstanding senior season.
"During NCAAs [Dan] was coming back from his Olympic trials and I feel he would have been really, really good," Hite said. ""Hopefully people have forgotten about him because we haven't and he's going to sneak up and have a great senior year in the butterfly and individual medley events."
All-American Weiss will look to improve on his third-place finish at the NCAA meet in the 400 IM and honorable mention all-american status last season in the 200 breaststroke and 500 free. The Reno, Nev., native will be asked to carry the load in the IMs and middle distance freestyle races, leading a team comprised of just one junior and four sophomores.
"Overall, we've got great leadership, not just in our captains, but in the entire senior class," Hite said. "They really do a great job of leading this team and they know that with so many freshmen that they've really accepted that challenge and have stepped up their game."
The lone junior, Tyler Hines, is expected to flourish this season in the mid-distance to distance freestyle events. Hines has already shown improvement and will be looked upon to carry Wisconsin in those events at dual meets and the Big Ten meet. The four previously mentioned sophomores are led by Drew DeTuits, who recently swam under two minutes in the 200 LCM backstroke and will be looked on to have a big impact this season.
Hite is most excited about his promising freshmen class, a group that was ranked sixth at the time of UW's announcement of its signees this past spring.
"When you go down the list, from top to bottom, this freshmen class is one of the best in the country," Hite said.
Among the newcomers are Josh Anderson who will make an immediate impact in the distance and IM events and John Bushman, who will make a push for NCAAs in the IM and breaststroke events.
In-state stars Austin Byrd (backstroke) and Ryan O'Donnell (backstroke) will be counted on to also make an immediate impact.
Along with the eight incoming swimmers, the Badgers are also welcoming in a pair of divers as UW will field its first dive team in two years.
"Hunter and Logan are a great addition to our diving team," diving coach Anton Slobounov said. "We are confident that the men's team will score points at dual meets and help our regular season record, as well as make an impact at Big Ten's."