March 2, 2010
TUCSON, Ariz. - Today the No. 1-ranked Arizona men's swimming team departs for Long Beach, Calif. and the Men's Pac-10 Championships at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool.
Although UA already has achieved many of its qualifying times--that which others are still in pursuit of--the Cats will still be looking to race fast and earn a spot on the championship podium.
Dual Meet Season
Arizona navigated through arguably one of the toughest schedules in the country and finished the year unbeaten at 8-0. After knocking off Wisconsin, UNLV and USC in the early part of the season, the Cats took part in the Texas Invitational where it placed first overall amid a field of top NCAA teams including host Texas and Auburn. Following its holiday training schedule, UA topped SMU before going on the road and toppling both Stanford and Cal in consecutive days. One week later back in Tucson, Arizona beat then No. 1 Texas over a two-day dual meet. Closing its dual meet schedule, UA traveled to Tempe and beat rival Arizona State for a perfect dual meet season.
What to Watch in Long Beach
The 800 freestyle relay: Arizona has won the relay the past four seasons at the Pac-10 Championships, with last season's victory coming by the slimmest of margins. Trailing after the first two legs, Arizona stormed back and anchor Joel Greenshields out-touched Stanford's Phillip Morrison by two hundredths of a second for the win. Over the course of the four-year span, the Cats have had seven Olympians compete on the winning 800 relay teams.
500 Freestyle: Jean Basson, the reigning NCAA champion in the 500 free, will attempt to win his third straight 500 free Pac-10 championship. The Johannesburg, South Africa native won last year in Long Beach before he set the school record in College Station three weeks later. If Basson should win the 500, he'd join countryman Ryk Neethling as the only UA men to win three consecutive conference individual titles. (Neethling won the 500 free from '98-'00 and the 1650 from '97-00) Basson will also compete in the 200 and 1650 freestyle events.
Individual Medley's: Jack Brown, Clark Burckle, Cory Chitwood, Bryan O'Connor and Austen Thompson all hold top times in the I.M. events nationally. Last year at Pac-10's, Brown won the 400 I.M. with a time of 3:43.22, topping Chad Carvin's school mark. Brown later went on to drop the time in lower at NCAA's. Burckle and Chitwood, both hailing from Kentucky, present a new element for the Cats as Chitwood missed all of `08-'09 with an injury and Burckle is in his first season with UA after transferring from Florida.
Breaststroke Competition: Along with the Cats solid breaststroke corps, the Pac-10 has arguably the best breaststroke swimmers all around. Last year's 100 breast event at Pac-10's, there were six automatic cuts alone. Look for both Cal and Arizona to duke it out in the 100 and 200 breast.