Racing The Best

Oct. 11, 2012

FRESNO, Calif. - "The better teams you race, the better you will be!"

This is head swimming and diving coach Jeanne Fleck's mentality as she leads the Fresno State Bulldogs to the next level and enters the Mountain West.

"On any given day you can race better, and compete better. When you compete against the best, you may bring your best," said Fleck.

For this reason, Fleck wants to swim against the highest competition out there and that's why Cal will be coming to the Early Bird Invite this Friday, Oct. 12 and Saturday, Oct. 13. The Bulldogs welcome the Cal Bears who are the defending NCAA National Champions. They have won three out of the last four National Championship Titles and this year they come with three Olympic swimmers and an Olympic coach that has a history rooted at Fresno State.

Terri McKeever, an All-America swimmer at USC, was the Fresno State head swimming and diving coach for the women's team from 1988-1992 and also coached the Fresno State men's team from 1989-1992. With the women, she compiled a 54-22 dual meet record during her Fresno State reign and with the men she had a 19-18 dual meet record.

"I am really excited to have Terri back at Fresno State," exclaimed Fleck. "She [Terri] loves Fresno State and has always had great things to say about it."

After Fresno State, McKeever went on to become the head coach at Cal in 1992 and has been there ever since. She was also named the first ever female head coach for the US swim team for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

"It is such a neat honor for Terri to have been named the first ever female US head women's coach for the Olympics," said Fleck. "She definitely deserved it."

The Cal Bears not only bring an Olympic coach, but also three Olympic swimmers. Entering freshman, Rachel Bootsma, is coming off a Gold medal performance at the 2012 London Olympics in the 400-Medley Relay. U.S. Olympic teammate Caitlin Leverenz, who enters her senior season, won Bronze in the 200 Individual Medley and sophomore Stephanie Au, competed for Hong Kong at the Olympics.

"We are facing a team that has Olympians, U.S. National team members [Elizabeth Pelton] and NCAA Champions [Cindy Tran]," said Fleck. "We will definitely be able to use this weekend as preparation for the Mountain West and NCAA Championships. We will use this for race strategies and learning."

The Early Bird Invite will break down into three sessions, the first Friday evening and the second and third will take place Saturday morning. The athletes will be swimming three to five events each session, which may be very taxing, but these races are used for preparation.

"Races cannot be simulated in practice," said Fleck. "These races will be another mental and physical workout for the girls which will push the best out of them."

It's the first competition of the season where the Bulldogs will swim Cal and San Jose State on Friday, and Cal only on Saturday. Fresno State is ready to kick off the season which they will use to make strides forward. Swimming against tough competition is designed to help improve the team as a whole.

"When you swim the best, you improve tremendously," said Fleck. "The Olympics are the pinnacle of this sport and I want the team to compete against the top. Times won't drop 10 seconds in one day, but progressively the times will drop and what we are preparing for are the conference and NCAA Championships."

"Discover Fresno State Athletics!" - Be there this weekend as the 'Dogs swim the Cal Bears and San Jose State Spartans at the Early Bird Invite. Friday, Oct. 12 at 4 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 13 at 10 a.m. You can also Watch Live Stats here or follow on Twitter at www.Twitter/FSAthletics.