UNH ready for ECAC championship chance
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 22:02
The No. 19 University of New Hampshire swimming and diving team will compete in the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships at Harvard University on Saturday and Sunday. New Hampshire is coming off of a meet at Maine last weekend, which saw the Wildcats crowned as America East Champions.
The team set an all-time league championship record with 858 points at the America East Championships as several of the women made top-three finishes in their respective events, as well as dominating the competition in the relay events. The team looks to take over this weekend as well, and all signs point to the Wildcats doing just that.
UNH head coach Joshua Willman said this is a driven team focused on winning events, and one of the deepest teams he has seen in his 20 years at the helm of UNH swimming and diving.
“We won America East in 2005,” Willman said. “That year, we had 17 swimmers and six of them didn’t score a point. This year, there is more depth.”
Among the top swimmers for New Hampshire is junior Jenni Roberts. The Springvale, Maine native won three individual events at the America East Championships, as well contributed on two first-place relay teams. In the opening swim of the meet, Roberts set a pool record in the 200-yard freestyle, swimming the leg in one minute and 48.6 seconds.
Roberts, who was named the Outstanding Swimmer of the Year following the meet, said the team is a close group and are always making each other better.
“Watching people swim fast makes you want to swim fast,” Roberts said. “As a team, we work really well together.”
Roberts transferred from Maryland University to UNH this season. Prior to arriving in New Hampshire, Roberts already knew the coaches and some of the women on the team and said that it felt like a family.
“It is fun to be around this team,” Roberts said.
As New Hampshire prepares for the ECAC Championships this weekend, the swimmers are looking forward to the better-equipped pool at Harvard.
According to Willman, the pool at Maine is inadequate and can slow the swimmers down. Willman said one of the turning ends is shallow and some of the swimmers can stand in the pool with the water up to only their waist.
The pool at Harvard, on the other hand, is a deeper pool and therefore a faster one. Based on the Wildcats solid performance at Maine despite the shortcomings of the pool, Willman and Roberts both expect the team to swim even faster at Harvard.
“The more water underneath you, the more buoyant you are and the quicker the turns,” Willman said.
“We are just looking to have fun and see how much faster we can go,” Roberts said.
Willman said this meet will be more focused on the individual swimmers as the athletes will now be competing for NCAA qualifying times. UNH will not compete in any relay events at the ECAC Championships.
“This meet is about individuals getting their best times in their events and getting some women on the team their NCAA cuts,” Willman said.
As a team, New Hampshire has dominated its schedule this season winning eight of the 12 competitions it has participated in. Now, the individual athletes will swim for their chance to compete for the NCAA Championship.
“This is going to give our top swimmers the best chance at making NCAA cuts as you can give them,” Willman said.