MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin winters are sudden and serve as a cruel reminder that each year state residents are obliged to endure at least 2-3 months of freezing cold temperatures, snow and the occasional blizzard.
Aside from the obvious perks of enjoying a week and a half of sunshine and sandy beaches, this makes the annual nine-hour flight from Chicago's O'Hare Airport to Hawaii each December that much more bearable for the University of Wisconsin swimming and diving squad.
Prior to head coach Whitney L. Hite taking over the reins of the program in 2011, the Badgers would travel to the Aloha State for a few weeks to train and enjoy the sun. Hite continued the tradition but slightly changed the focus and objective behind the opportunity.
"I view it as a business trip," Hite explained. "We go there with the mindset of getting better, whether it's getting stronger in training, faster in speed.
"There's a lot of development going on and it's a great opportunity for team bonding as well."
Hite uses the time spent away from campus to measure each student-athlete's progress at this point in the season, while also continuing to stress the idea of growth and getting better during grueling practices and training sessions.
"A lot of people think we go out there to lay on the beach," Hite added. "As (UW Senior Administrator) Terry Gawlik saw this year we worked out hard -- really hard."
Aside from escaping Wisconsin's below zero temperatures, the Badgers were able to refocus their energy to powering up for the final stretch of the season, which continues this weekend at Christiansburg, Va., for a two-day meet against Virginia and Virginia Tech, among others.
The team used their time in Hawaii to emphasize improving on last season's Big Ten championships finish and gaining momentum heading into the NCAA meet in March.
"I think that's the thing that has changed since I've been here," Hite said. "We made it clear why we made this trip and the team realizes the goal is to get better."