Lady Hawks look to the relays


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Marc Long knows the importance of relay teams in competition.

As team captain of the Iowa men’s swimming team in 1989, he was a member of the Big Ten record-setting 200-freestyle relay team that broke an NCAA record.

In his collegiate career, Long was a three-time Big Ten champion and a six-time All-American, and he helped lead the Hawkeyes to an eighth-place finish at the NCAA championships (its highest finish).

Twenty years later, as a head coach of the Iowa swimming program, he has instilled the importance of relays into his swimmers as a focal point for a team’s success. The AquaHawks will head to the Big Ten championships in Ann Arbor, Mich., hoping to gain valuable points through the relay events, in which a first-place finish can garner up to 40 points for a team.

“We have a real focus on strength and power,” Long said. “Relays are double the points, and so we try to put in a heavy emphasis on [them].”

The 200-medley relay team composed of freshman Danielle Carty, sophomore Katarina Tour, freshman Daniela Cubelic, and junior Julie deBruin, has shown consistency throughout the season, and barring any injuries, it will try to make a statement for Iowa at the meet. Also set for Iowa will be the 800-freestyle relay team of junior Christine Kuczek, sophomore Verity Hicks, senior Alison Gschwend, and Cubelic.

The other relays teams, however, have yet to be determined.

“We go off of performances throughout the year. As the meet goes on, the relays are entered as ‘The University of Iowa’ so we can switch up anybody,” Long said. “By the end of the meet, somebody might get real hot, swimming very, very well or somebody will come out of the woodwork maybe and really take off. And we want to get those people on the relays, so it’s kind of judged on the performances [during] the meet.”

It was around this time last season that both the 200- and 400-freestyle relay school records were broken during the 2008 Big Ten championships. The foursome of deBruin, Kuczek, Gschwend, and Tour broke the 200-medley record with a time of 1:32.95 and lowered the 400-medley record to 3:22.95.

The AquaHawks train for relay competition by using “power towers” that fill with water for resistance. They also practice strength training with heavy lifting as well as relay exchanges throughout the season in preparation for the event.

Gschwend believes the hours spent practicing and training will heavily pay off this week.

“I think all of our relays are going to do amazing this year. We have a really deep set of relay women, and I think all of our school records will go down this year,” she said. “So I’m really excited I get to be a part of at least one of those relays.”

Another advantage for having open spots on the relay teams is that it keeps the swimmers competitive.

“There’s a little more battling for the spots, that always helps,” Long said.

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