Excitement radiated among the entire swim and dive team as the Sun Devils are reaching the final stretch before their first meet of year this Saturday against
the University of Minnesota.
This meet is different from most that the Sun Devils have encountered before, as it is a dual meet. It is also the earliest in the school year that the team has ever had to compete.
This is not the only obstacle that coach Dan Kesler and the swimming staff have to overcome, as they must prepare an unusually large number of freshmen for their first collegiate swimming experience.
“A lot (of the athletes) haven’t raced since summer and are ready to unleash the horses,” Kesler said. “Most of them are ready to show their stuff, but mentally, not all of them are there yet.”
It can be a stressful time though, because the new swimmers do not want to let their team down and the dual meets are a much faster pace with shorter breaks than typical meets, Kesler said.
It is meets like these that are ideal for assessing times, strengths in the pool, and getting the team in the competitive spirit for the first time this year.
This Saturday, the Sun Devils will have to compete without their top three female swimmers as senior Alex Popa recovers from an injury, while senior Tristin Baxter and freshman Anna Olasz are both competing in the Marathon Swimming World Cup in Beijing this weekend.
“Coach Dorsey (Tierney-Walker) cultivates leadership and sees (absences like these) coming, so she is able to prepare the team,” Kesler said.
This is clear for junior Tory Houston, who is entering her upperclassmen seasons with the Sun Devils and understands the importance of her role.
“It feels good to be a leader,” Houston said. “The upperclassmen taught me to win, and I want to be a role model to our freshmen.”
While many freshmen prepare just to put a time on the board, it is leadership seen in the upperclassmen that shape the attitude of the team.
“The first meet obviously is one of the most exciting parts in the season,” Houston said, “but personally I always try to make a dual meet feel like Pac-12 (competition).”
It will still be an exciting new experience for freshmen like Cheyenne DeGraf, who has never competed in collegiate athletics.
“I’m nervously excited and have no idea what to expect,” DeGraf said. “But I think I’ll do better than I’ve ever done.”
A high school swim season generally begins earlier than a college schedule, a positive for the freshmen, and the team is very well prepared, DeGraf said.
“I’m just excited about competing and reassessing realistic goals after,” DeGraf said. “It’s hard to look forward when I’m not sure where I’m at.”
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