The WSU Women’s swimming team prepares to open up the 2011-2012 season as they take on tough competition this weekend against the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans at Gibb Pool.
The Cougars are returning from February's record-setting appearance at the Pac-10 Invitational. At the Invitational, the 400 freestyle relay team set a school record during the last event of the meet, beating the previous record by just three tenths of a second and touching the wall in 3:20.96.
Senior Danielle Palumbo swam her way up another Cougar top-10 list with her performance in the 200 backstroke. The Sammamish native jumped to third on the all-time list with a lifetime best of 2:01.21.
It is not every year that the Cougar swimming team has a chance to host the Trojans in their home pool, but
first-year Head Coach Tom Jager said this is a great learning experience for both him and his team.
“When we get to the Pac-12 conference we are going to be swimming against these athletes,"Jager said."So our athletes have to learn how to swim against the fastest in the world but swim our own race, and swim our own races well."
Jager said if the team gets wrapped up in who they are racing against, then they may not do well. He said the team just has to focus on what makes them great and do that. Then if they start getting into some close races and winning some, they will do well, he said.
Palumbo and fellow senior Sarah Hicks said they are excited to have Jager as their new head coach and to compete against USC at home.
Palumbo said she was sad to see former Head Coach Erica Quam leave, but is now excited about the new direction of the program. Palumbo said it is somewhat of a push for the seniors. She said the last year can sometimes be the hardest but having Jager join the team gives her movitivation and excitement for this year's season.
Hicks said she was “really excited” when finding out Jager would take over the WSU Women’s swimming program. She said she heard nothing but good things about him and his time spent at the University of Idaho. She said she is excited to be able to be coached by someone with such experience as the five-time Olympic gold medalist and six time NCAA Champion.
Hicks said the plan for this weekend against the USC Trojans will be to purely race against a team who is top five in the nation.
“It is just important to race people of that caliber because in the end it makes you more prepared for Pac-12s,” Hicks said. “Coaches' expectations of us are to get out there and swim the best race we can and to get after as many of their swimmers we can. In the end I think that he will be really pleased with us. We have all been putting in really hard work, so I think it will be pretty impressive.”
The Debbie Phiper Memorial Invitational is held in honor of a former WSU Head Coach who led the Cougars to a 85-62-1 record during her 30 years at WSU. Phiper lost her fight against cancer in January 2007.
The meet is scheduled to begin Friday at 5 p.m. at Gibb Pool and will continue on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. at Gibb Pool.