Vandal swimmers continue building for future

After a 19-year hiatus, women's collegiate swimming returns to the University of Idaho campus, just in time for Idaho's entry in the Western Athletic Conference next fall.

The first University of Idaho women's collegiate swim team since the program was dropped 19-years ago has reached the halfway point in '04-'05 season as a member of the Big West Conference. Head Coach Tom Jager gave an update to the Latah County Vandal Boosters this past week on the program, which will be competing in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) next season.

"It's been a pretty exciting month for University of Idaho women's swimming," the five-time Olympic medalist said. "A lot of great things are happening in the pool." The Vandals have hosted San Jose State, participated in the Big West Shootout in California, and hosted the University of Washington, the top Division I program in the Northwest and ranked #24 in the nation.

"We swam against San Jose State, the first duel meet we've had in 21 years, and we were able to win 5 out of the 12 events," he said. "It was pretty neat to watch the girls. They performed well, but we just don't have the depth yet... It's a bit different getting all those walk-ons (here) than it is in Santa Clara and San Jose. The lower end (of our lineup) doesn't really pile up the points, but we're working on it. When we went down to the Big West Shootout - 11 teams from all over the west - the coaches came up to the girls and said, 'You guys don't look like a first year program. You guys are swimming great,' and that really made our girls feel good. We're making an impact in the region...They performed at a pretty high level.

"Last weekend we swam against the University of Washington. It was really great for us. In swimming, when you swim in a duel meet you get 12 courtesy points. If you never win an event you get 12 points. The first time we swam against Washington at the Big West Shootout we got 12 points," Jager continued. "This weekend our goal was to try to at least get some regular points, and we did. We got our first points against the University of Washington: Distance swimmer - (freshman) Paige Lee - took second in the 1,000-yard freestyle, and it was just a great swim."

Jager and his team entered the UW meet knowing it would be a struggle points-wise to compete with the PAC-10 powerhouse. But the Vandals chose to look at the ongoing process of building for the future by continuing to train through the mid-point of the schedule, with the goal of being able to post their best performances in February as the season reaches its climax.

"We could have scheduled (smaller schools), but I talked to these girls at the break and said, 'You know, you guys could be beating (a smaller opponent), but what good is that going to do you? We could swim against ... Division II or whatever. We could swim against all these people and beat them if you want to, or we could swim against the best in the region and see where we're at.'"

The Vandals continued to train hard throughout the week prior to the Washington meet rather than taper off workouts in hopes of posting better marks. "With the best team we're going to face all year coming here on Saturday, it was our hardest week of training. On Wednesday we did a set of 45 100s on the 1:10, and that's a heart rate level of 160-180 for 55 minutes; so they were working out pretty hard. We don't mess around. Our girls know they're pretty tough, and I believe by the end of this season...they are going to have a lot of pride in what they do. We're pretty excited. We're moving forward."

About 2-1/2 weeks before the Big West Championships, the Vandals will host their final home meet of the season. "Our next home meet -- the big one -- will be Washington State February 5. We're trying to focus in on that."

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