"We all dyed our hair black," senior and team co-captain Scott Goodrich says. "We all went over to my house in Auburn on Saturday, the day before we left, and we all dyed our hair."
Goodrich is a two-time NCAA champion and an All-American. For the Glendale, Ariz., native, at this level of competition togetherness and teamwork are the most important things.
"We will all dye our hair the same color and all wear the same T-shirt out on the deck," he says. "It's all about being a team and being united."
With a team title this week in Washington, Auburn would join elite company with the Indiana teams of 1968-1973 as the only programs to win six-straight NCAA swimming and diving championships.
"Those are real interesting things for the media to talk about," Auburn head coach Richard Quick says about the comparison to the Indiana teams. "Indiana's program back in those years was very good at swimming, but I think to this team all we are concerned about is this year's team focusing on this year's goal.
"You don't care anything in this competition about last year," Quick adds. "You have to earn it and you have to earn it this year and that has kind of been our attitude all year long."
Leading the team into this competition is one of the fastest swimmers on the planet, Cesar Cielo. The reigning NCAA Swimmer of the Year, Cielo is a six-time NCAA champion and could pass current Auburn sprints coach, Brette Hawke, for the all-time Auburn lead in NCAA championships with nine.
"Cesar is one of the cornerstones of this team," Quick says. "He is having an excellent season so far and he has worked very hard and is learning a lot. He is very focused on swimming faster than he ever has in his life.
Scott Goodrich, Cesar Cielo and Matt Targett celebrate a victory at last year's NCAA Championships. Targett is taking the year off from college competition because he is competing in the Australian Olympic Trials this week.
"One thing that all great athletes have is a burning desire to win, they hate to lose," Quick says of Cielo. "Everybody wants to win, but the great athletes of the world hate to lose and I think Cesar's in that boat now.
"He is also very talented and has a feel for the water and a wonderful ability to eliminate resistance in the water. That is important because the faster you go, the higher the requirement to eliminate resistance is."
Some might consider the Tigers as the underdog in this week's meet after not being their usual dominating selves in the dual meet season, but Quick and his team don't see it that way. "Our team is in a great frame of mind," the coach says. "They are confident and relaxed and focused and ready to attack this thing as a team so we are really looking forward to this competition."
Auburn's 2008 catch phrase was devised by several of the team members. "After the (dual meet) loss to Tennessee, we got together as a team and came up with a word that inspired us to remember what our goals were this year," Goodrich points out. "The word we came up with was invictus, which means unconquerable or unbeatable. That's something that when we get into our team huddles and before we come together that reminds us."
The Tigers come into the meet ranked fifth behind No. 1 Texas, Arizona, Stanford and Michigan, but have had no problems winning national titles when not ranked number one in the polls. Last year Auburn won its seventh men's NCAA swimming title with 566 points, 169 ahead of runnerup Stanford.
"The men's championship, on paper, is going to be a very, very close race between about five or six teams and we are excited that we are one of those teams," Quick says. "Anytime that you have a great swimmer like Cesar Cielo to rally around, it gives a level of confidence to everybody on the squad, including the coaching staff so we are excited about our chances."
The Tigers have 15 swimmers and two divers competing at the nationals this year. Texas has the most qualifiers with 16 swimmers and three divers. Florida, which is ranked sixth, has 17 swimmers and no divers.