ASU Men's Swim and Dive continues to be the most dominant team in the country as they push through their undefeated season and hold their No. 1 ranking through multiple meets.
The Sun Devils keep their eyes on the prize and disregard their ranking, staying humble and continuing to swim faster each time they enter the pool.
The men were ranked No. 1 around this time last year and won the program's first Pac-12 championship. However, the team couldn't turn the final page, losing to University of California, Berkeley in the NCAA championships despite still setting the school record when they placed second. The team looks not to repeat history but to stand on the tallest podium at the NCAA in March.
Some programs keep an eye on rankings as motivation, but Head Coach Bob Bowman said he and the guys don't bother looking at the rankings. They will swim at the same intensity, no matter their rank or reputation.
"We don't ever talk about winning a championship," Bowman said. "We talk about what it takes to be a champion. That's the everyday, day in and day out, taking care of your business."
It's about the journey for Bowman, not the destination.
He knows that if his swimmers do what it takes to be a champion, they can compete at the highest level. ASU's No. 1 rank comes from both CSCAA and SwimSwam, and Bowman said even with such high praise, the swimmers are still getting criticism from him. The goal is for them to continue improving even though they are already the best.
The French "bête" (beast), junior Léon Marchand, leads the team. He currently has the best time on the team in nine of the 16 individual events and looks to compete in his home country Olympics next year. Graduate student Jack Dolan leads three of those remaining seven events.
Another swimmer on the squad, Hungarian sophomore Hubert Kós, who holds the school record for the 200 backstroke, spends most of his time specifically training with Bowman. He gets first-hand experience with what Bowman is trying to do with the team. But for Kós, what helps him the most and what he says makes him better is racing his teammates and the pros that practice with the team.
"It just helps us so much having to train with each other and race with each other every single day," Kós said. "That in itself just pushes it to higher levels."
Another aspect of why this team is doing so well is the fun they have with each other and the motivation they give each other.
Deniz Ertan, a swimmer on the women's team who won both the 500 and 1000 freestyle at both USC and UCLA, said that if there is something that a swimmer is struggling with, everyone else is pushing them to get better.
“Oh, (practice) is really fun,” Ertan said. "Also, at practices, we always like to motivate each other … 'I can't do this,' but actually you can keep it up and do it."
This enthusiasm crosses over to their meets. From beginning to end, they scream, yell, clap, jump and smile, whether it's a win or loss. The eagerness to win bleeds over into the team's support for one another.
"(The loudness) gives them more energy," Bowman said. "The more energy that’s put into it, the more energy they can feel and use when they are racing."
The team continues through its season, relying on its hard work and dedication to find success. Both the men's and women's teams swam today at the NC State GAC Invitational to continue their campaign back to the NCAA water.
Edited by Vinny DeAngelis, Walker Smith and Caera Learmonth.