Feb. 25, 2014
NEW ORLEANS - The Tulane University swimming and diving team will look to cap its membership in Conference USA and end its first season under the direction of head coach Katie Robinson on a high note when the Green Wave open play in the 2014 C-USA Championship on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at the Georgia Tech Campus Recreation Center in Atlanta, Ga.
The four-day event, which will be held at the site of the 1996 XXVI Summer Olympic Games, will begin on tomorrow at 5 p.m. (CST) with the 200 medley relay, followed by the 800 free relay. The final three days of the championship meet will follow the traditional format of preliminaries beginning at 9 a.m. with finals slated to begin each day at 5 p.m.
The Green Wave - along with East Carolina, FIU, Florida Atlantic, Marshall, North Texas, Old Dominion, Rice and Western Kentucky - will square off in the 500 free, 200 individual medley, 50 free, 200 free relay and three-meter diving on Thursday before competing in the 400 individual medley, 100 fly, 200 free, 100 breast, 100 back, 400 medley relay and one-meter springboard on Friday. The championship concludes on Saturday, March 1, with the 1650 free, 200 back, 100 free, 200 breast, 200 fly, 400 free relay and platform diving.
"It's my first Conference USA meet and the last one for the team," Robinson said. "We have a great shot at doing lots of really good swims. Some of the goals that we have are our placements in the relays and placing them as high up in the finals heat as we can. Individually, they have some great goals for on the team. We are looking to score in most every event, and if not score hopefully set some team records in a lot of events as well. We have a shot at qualifying for NCAAs, and that would be an excellent step for our program."
The Green Wave enter the 2014 C-USA Championship with a 2-9 dual-meet record while posting a fifth-place finish at the Phill Hansel Invitational from Nov. 21-23 in Houston. Along the way, Tulane swimmers have combined to post 26 marks that rank among the Top 10 individual performances and 39 times that rank among the Top 15 overall performances in school history. In addition, Green Wave divers have four Top 10 individual scores and 16 Top 15 overall marks while the Green Wave relay units tally 10 times that rank among the Top 15 performances in the program's record book.
"Our progress as a team has come a long way since August and it's been a wonderful journey," Robinson said. "They have grown tremendously and in different parts of the season they have grown in different ways. In the fall season, they grew physically. When we took our training trip to California, they grew as a more cohesive unit and really bonded well together. Now, with the taper season and the conference meet coming up, we've been experiencing an emotional growth where they're getting excited and having a good time with each other."
On the diving front, Tulane will send sophomores Lauren Arnold and Maren Kjell to the different elevations after a 2013-14 campaign that saw they post a combined two of the top three individual performances on both the one- and three-meter springboards. Arnold twice set NCAA Zone qualifying scores at one-meter earlier in the season.
"The preparation has been pretty good lately," Tulane diving coach Chris Devine said. "I can see both of them getting into meet mode. They're getting a little bit more focused. Things are getting a little bit crisper, the dives are a little bit higher and that's a nice thing to see. It means they actually care and they're trying to prepare as best as they can to do as well as possible.
"When I first got here, I could see that they were unsure of exactly how I was going to coach and what kind of motivator I would be. It took a little bit of time to build the trust in both of them, but I noticed after the training trip that I finally got through to them. They were starting to trust what I was teaching them, how I was teaching them and I saw some tremendous progress since that time."
This week's meet marks the eighth time Tulane will participate in the C-USA Championship. Back in 2004 - the original reincarnation of the Tulane swimming and diving program - the Green Wave finished fifth with 486 points. A year later, Tulane scored 729 points to edge TCU by 9.5 points for the C-USA title. After learning of the program's suspension in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, the Green Wave program was down to just 10 swimmers and one diver but still finished fourth of five teams with 402.5 points.
Following a three-year layoff, Tulane's swimming and diving team returned and finished the 2010 C-USA Championship and sandwiched fifth-place finishes around a sixth-place showing in 2012. Last season, Tulane finished with an overall scored of 373 points, which nearly doubled the Wave's 195.5 from the previous season.
"The atmosphere is one of excitement," Robinson added. "We have a little bit of nerves walking around on the team, but it's good. I think a little bit of nervous energy is a good thing when you use it right. We do a lot of team meetings where we talk about how we're preparing and how each person is motivated a little bit differently so we make sure that each one is motivated the right way. I think they're excited to do well. Our mid-season meet was just a small preview of what great swims we have ahead of us."