Swimming and Diving set up for success

Iowa+swimmer+Kenneth+Mende+swims+at+the+Campus+Recreation+and+Wellness+Center+on+Saturday%2C+Dec+5%2C+2015.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2FPeter+Kim%29
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Swimming and Diving set up for success

Iowa swimmer Kenneth Mende swims at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center on Saturday, Dec 5, 2015. (The Daily Iowan/Peter Kim)

Iowa swimmer Kenneth Mende swims at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center on Saturday, Dec 5, 2015. (The Daily Iowan/Peter Kim)

Peter Kim

Iowa swimmer Kenneth Mende swims at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center on Saturday, Dec 5, 2015. (The Daily Iowan/Peter Kim)

Peter Kim

Peter Kim

Iowa swimmer Kenneth Mende swims at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center on Saturday, Dec 5, 2015. (The Daily Iowan/Peter Kim)

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By Anna Kayser

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The Iowa swimming and diving teams have improved in all aspects of the sport since last season, putting them in a better position as the weeks lead to the Big Ten Championships.

One improvement that has arguably been the most influential is the way the Hawkeyes interact with each other. That comes from the coaches putting them in new situations to compete against one another while also lending support.

“We’ve done a lot more team activities, we’ve been split up into groups and doing challenges,” sophomore Hannah Burvill said. “I think that friendly rivalry within the team has brought us all a lot closer.”

That friendly rivalry helps the team fuel each other in both a competitive and supportive way.

“A lot of it has to do with how we step up in the pool and how we race each other, how we support each other,” junior Kenneth Mende said. “You can tell that everyone has each other’s backs in the pool, and that really helps a lot.”

With the improved team dynamic comes a new opportunity for new leaders to step up.

RELATED: Swimmers confident in competitive ability

In the diving well, that has improved the performance almost more than anything else.

“Our leadership on our team, I mean, we’ve got great leadership, and I think that’s the biggest thing,” head diving coach Todd Waikel said. “Everybody’s just coming together, and we’ve got some young blood coming up, and it’s just kind of a ‘feeds off each other’ situation.”

Another facet that has improved is the overall performance in the pool and faster times compared with last season.

Gear-related swimming, such as a Time 2000 exercise at the beginning of the season to set a base time, go into motivation and pushing the team to do better.

In the weight room, the Hawkeyes have worked hard to gain the strength to push off harder and to develop the skills they need for success.

With the unit coming out stronger and faster than last year, and especially with the new, tighter team chemistry, the outlook going into the Big Ten Championships is good.

“I think we are all counting the days and weeks until Big Tens,” Mende said. “It’s going to be really exciting; we’re definitely going to do better than last year.”

In a conference as tough as the Big Ten is in swimming — Michigan, Ohio State, and Minnesota are top 25 in the men’s rankings — the perspective on the Big Ten Championship by some is realistic.

“I think we’re going to score top five overall as a team, top four is even possible,” Mende said. “I don’t think we can win a title yet, but I’m excited to see what this program is able to do in the next couple of years.”

The mindset for this team isn’t on improving each individual time from last season, but in focusing on the present and what they can do together.

“I think from a competitive standpoint, we look just at times and performances, and we seem to be just a little bit ahead,” head coach Marc Long said. “Some other things we look at are with the team and how they are progressing. Every year is such a different year, so we’re just focusing on this group.”

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