Focus On Individuals at NCAA Championships

The Auburn women's swimming and diving team will start competition on Thursday at the NCAA meet.

West LaFayette, Ind.--Normally the focus for an Auburn team at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships is about competing for a team title. However, for the 2010 women's team, that is not the case.

Ranked eighth nationally heading into the meet, the Tigers are in a transition and rebuilding year in Brett Hawke's first full season as head coach of the Tigers.

Auburn has eight swimmers and two divers qualified for the three-day competition that begins on Thursday at Purdue University in West LaFayette, Ind.

"We usually bring about somewhere between 12 to 14 athletes, but the athletes we have here are well-established, very confident and are looking forward to racing," says Hawke, who notes he is hoping for some good performances even though Auburn is not expecting to win the team title, something the AU women have done five times since 2002.

"We are taking more of an individual focus," the coach says. "It is tough when you're trying to compete with other schools that have 16 or 17 athletes at the meet. It makes it really tough to have a realistic shot of winning. We're focusing more on the individual performance to see where we end up at the end of the meet."

Based on training, Hawke predicts the Tigers will have swimmers who will do well. "Everybody is looking good," he points out. "They are a relaxed team with a lot of confidence."

Commenting on who he thinks could make a run at winning an individual championship, Hawke says, "Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace is looking really good. She won the 100 fly and 100 free at the SEC Championships and that set her up really well here. She is looking great in the water.

Ava Ohlgren is a senior All-American for the Tigers.

"Ava Ohlgren is a former champion and she will be tough to beat in her events. She has some really good competition this year.

"Micah Lawrence is looking great in the breaststroke. I think we have some really good shots in the relays as well. We have a good group of girls that could put up some fast times in the relays. Those are the events that we're looking to do really well in and see what happens in the others.

"We have a group of girls here that have done well in past NCAA championships," Hawke adds. "Maggie Bird is one of those who medaled last year and could do that again this year. We have a great group of athletes. We just don't know where it's going to end up at the end. We're going to take it race by race."

Although this has not been a strong season for Auburn women's swimming, all of the NCAA qualifiers will be back next year except for Bird, Ohlgren and Melissa Marik and they will be joined by a strong recruiting class so the future is bright.

We did have a great recruiting season this year, finishing number one on the women's side with some great athletes coming in," Hawke says.

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