Swimming & diving preview: CSU travels to Albuquerque for first invitational

Oct. 31, 2012

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Fri.-Sat., Nov. 2-3 | Seidler Natatorium | Albuquerque, N.M.

The Albuquerque Invitational
The Rams head to their first invitational of the season at the Seidler Natatorium in Albuquerque N.M. Competition will begin Friday, Nov. 2, at 3 p.m. MT and will continue through Saturday, Nov. 3. CSU will face two conference opponents—New Mexico and San Diego State—and New Mexico State of the Western Athletic Conference.

Coming off second-straight loss
The Rams are recovering from their second-straight loss in the first two weekends of 2012-13 dual-meet competition season. CSU first fell at Denver (181-117), followed by a loss at home to Wyoming (167.5-132.5).

Although the losses are still “L’s” on the Rams’ record, they show marked improvement since last season. The final-dual meet scores are closer than they were in the 2011-12 season (Denver, 190-110 and Wyoming, 189-106).

“I think it’s been a little bit more upbeat in practice this week,” Head Coach Christopher Woodard said. “They were a little tentative last week and nervous heading in against Wyoming. And while the overall result of losing this week was obviously not what we wanted, I think the fight in them, and seeing that they could swim fast while they were tired, was evident. They have been approaching practice this week with even a little more renewed vigor.”

San Diego State Aztecs
San Diego State stands as an intimidating force in the Mountain West. At the 2012 Championships, the Aztecs came in second to Boise State, separated by only five overall points. This season, the Aztecs are the favorites to win the MW Championship, being picked No. 1 in the MW Preseason Coaches Poll.

Unbeaten this season, the athletes have been speeding through the pool. Melanie Garibaldi and Mikaela Macklin have been honored for their performances in the season with MW Swimmer of the Week recognition. San Diego State is the only team at the invitational nationally ranked in the top-25.

CSU has lost to San Diego State at its annual dual meet for the past two seasons. Previously the Rams had held a 10-season winning streak against the Aztecs.

“Mike [Shrader] continues to get some great home-grown talent and some pretty fierce Australians,” Woodard said of San Diego State’s head coach. “He’s got some girls who swim very fast very early in the season because they are very prepared.  So they are absolutely tough, but they are the gold standard—them and Boise—in the conference. We have to go out and try to get some wins from them.”

New Mexico Lobos
Before the 2011-12 season, the Rams did not have to worry about the Lobos. CSU held an 18-season winning streak against New Mexico in dual meets and had beaten the Lobos at the Championships since they joined the MW in 1999-00. However at the 2012 Championships, the Lobos’ finish in the final relays gave them enough points to slide above the Rams in standings and finish sixth. The teams were only separated by nine points.

The invitational gives the Rams the opportunity to continue their 18-season winning streak in dual meets, and prove their dominance over New Mexico.

New Mexico State Aggies
At the 2012 Western Athletic Conference Championships, the Aggies finished fourth out of eight teams. In their previous meetings, the Rams and Aggies have switched off wins and losses in dual meets with close finishes and final-team scores from each meeting.

The Aggies have already earned recognition in the WAC this season for their strong diving. Jaymee Porter earned the WAC Diver of the Week award for her sweep of the diving events at the Aggies’ first dual meet, against Air Force.

Swimming tired
Coming from back-to-back swimming meets against two of the hardest teams on their schedule, the Rams will have to battle strong teams without a chance to recover. Teams are usually restricted to only allow their athletes in four events. At the two-day invitational, each athlete will be allowed three events both nights. For many members of the team, the invitational will be like racing two dual meets back to back.

“I expect them to be tired,” Woodard said. “We haven’t let up on them in the weight room and we’re certainly not letting up on the racing.”

This week’s practice
This week of practice will be the shortest the Rams have had since their competition season began. The team will fly out on Thursday, giving them only three days of regular practice.

“We’re continuing to do the same thing in practice,” Woodard said. “We’re trying to focus a lot on getting out in the first 15 [meters] of our races and in and out of our turns, which seems to be where we’re a little bit weak right now.”

What to look for
Breann Fuller is as intimidating as they come in the pool. Fuller has dominated the pool in the backstroke during her time at CSU, but has added sprint freestyle to her repertoire this season. In CSU’s last dual meet, Fuller finished first in the 100 Freestyle against Wyoming. Fuller helped as the anchor in the winning 200 Medley Relay, as well.

Some of the highest-scoring divers in the conference will compete against CSU at the invitational, giving the team its greatest challenge so far. The team will face even more adversity since freshman star Ariana Milone will be out for the invitational. While practicing for the 1-meter dives at the Wyoming meet, Milone hit her hand and broke it on the board.

Paige Greely stepped in for her injured teammate and placed second on the 1-meter boards. Greely was out due to an injury at the beginning of the season and this invitational will be her first time as a Ram on the 3-meter boards.

“I think she’s capable,” diving coach Kevin Witt said. “We’ll see how the first travel and first actual meet goes for her. But everyone is going to have to step up and cover for the teammate who’s not there.”