Wike, Tigers, Looking for Five in a Row

The Men's NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships begin Thursday at noon, CDT in Minneapolis, Minn., where the Auburn men won 1997 and 2005 championships.

Auburn, Ala.--Shooting for it's fifth straight NCAA Title, the Auburn men enter the swimming and diving championships in Minneapolis ranked third in the CSCAA dual-meet poll behind Stanford and Texas.

The second-ranked Longhorns snapped the Tigers' five-year unbeaten dual meet streak in Auburn in January with a 130-113 victory over the men.

"We're definitely seeing red after that Texas meet," says Auburn senior swimmer James Wike. "We're going to be gunning for them and they're going to be gunning for us just as hard. They've proved to themselves that they can beat us in a dual-meet and we're not ready for them to beat us in an invitational or an NCAA Championship type of form. We've definitely got something to do and something to say about that meet. We have plans to come in here and prove it."

Meanwhile Stanford, ranked No. 1, will be without head coach Skip Kenney while school officials investigate allegations levied by former Stanford swimmers into Kenney's role of expunging names from the Cardinal record book.

"With their situation and their coach being suspended from this meet, that will go one way or the other," explains Auburn head coach David Marsh, who will be coaching his last competition with the Tigers. "That will either have them bring in their focus and raise their level or it will disperse them a little more. Texas has a very young team, but a very talent team, and they are quite dangerous as well.

"Arizona is a little like us in that they'll probably bring their best meet of the year here," he continues. "They could definitely make it a formidable challenge. I do think Florida has some guys that could make the meet interesting, but at this point I see us competing against the other three schools in this three-day event."

The Tigers have an advantage in numbers with 16 swimmers and three divers qualified for competition, the most of any team in the field.

"Numbers help if they score," Marsh says. "They add to the team setting. I don't think numbers will win this championship. I don't think last week it necessarily did (for the women's championship). What did make a difference is the last day every single person scored except when they got disqualified. We had just a tremendous last day, one of the best last days I've ever seen with everybody coming back and earning their way to the finals.

"This meet we have to get points in groupings and bunches and we have to strike fast and strike hard," Marsh continues. "Our strength events are diving, hunches and strokes. If we get enough other points, like what made a difference in the women's meet, we'll do very well. The standard and goal is to have swimmers perform personal best times and fight for top eight finishes to get out of the preliminaries and qualify for the finals, and also to grab as many consolation swims as we can.

"I do feel real good about how the guys look and how their emotions are right now."

Wike, a senior who has been an inspirational leader for the Tigers by swimming through flipped discs and spinal cord pinching this season, says that he feels this year's squad has what it takes to do what the previous four Auburn teams did at the NCAAs--win a national championship.

"We've got tons of potential and talent coming from every corner of our team," Wike explains. "We've got young guy, older guys and we've got talent and potential everywhere. The hard thing is bringing the talent and potential together and performing on the day we need to. It's there. If we come together like we can, we can really blow this meet out of the water."


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