|by Howard W. Hewitt • February 5, 2007|
CANTON, Ohio - The Wabash College swim team’s biggest asset might be its biggest unknown. More than 20 student-athletes will attempt to unravel the contradiction beginning Thursday at the North Coast Athletic Conference swim meet.
The Little Giants arrived in Canton late Wednesday afternoon and arrived at the competition pool just before 5 p.m. for a quick acclimation session. Coach Peter Casares watched over the workouts and planned on getting his athletes out of the pool and to dinner before all the other teams crowded the pool.
The Little Giants lost just once in dual meet competition this season and have 17 swimmers who have posted times that could allow them to score during the conference meet. Remarkably, 11 of those 17 swimmers are freshmen.
The Crawfordsville Journal Review took note of standout sophomore Jordon Blackwell in Tuesday's edition. Read that story here.
"I don’t know what these guys are capable of," Coach Peter Casares said of his talented newcomers. "That excites me but also makes me nervous.
"We are swimming better than we have in years past in our dual meets. A lot of these guys hope to do lifetime bests this week so they haven’t reached that pinnacle yet. They’ve been swimming fast while tired."
The NCAC meet isn’t just any other Div. III swim contest either. Kenyon College has dominated Div. III swimming like no other team in NCAA sports. The Lords are the 27-time defending national champions. The have won the NCAC meet 21 of the 22 years it has been contested.
Casares, the 2005 NCAC Coach of the Year, has made it the Little Giants’ goal to narrow the gap between his Little Giants and perennial powers Kenyon and Denison. In last year’s meet, Wabash pulled away from fourth and fifth place Wittenberg and Wooster in the final standings with 974 points.
"We’ve talked the last few years about getting over 1,000 points but this year I talked to the team about winning the conference meet for the first time," Casares said.
Casares’ young team might be a couple years away but he peppers his conversation with a healthy dose of maybe. "It becomes a numbers game in big meets like this. How many people can you score in the top eight? We looked at the times from the past four years from the NCAC meet and really there is no way we can win the conference, but we might.
"There is no way we can win, but we might," he repeated.
His realistic goal is for his team is to be in position if Kenyon or Denison falters in any way. "A victory at this meet is having every single guy swim their best. If we can do that, whether we come in first or third, it’s a success.
"Some objective things we can accomplish this year is to score 1,000 points, to achieve some national cuts, to break school records, and if we can sprinkle in a couple of those things with our highest point total that would be a very good success and a big springboard to the future."
The Little Giants remain a bit under the radar in a meet so dominated by two schools. Still, CollegeSwimming.com had Wabash ranked as the nation’s fifth best dual-meet team in the country.
It’s not only a big week for the swimmers but for Wabash Athletics. The meet is held in Canton to accommodate big crowds but is hosted on a rotating basis by NCAC member schools. Wabash will host this year’s meet.
Sports Information Director Brent Harris will be meet director. Athletic Director Vernon Mummert will act as host. Other College staff members will be in Canton to assist with the administration for the competition.
In photos: Upper right, Asst. Coach Kyle Dunaway watches swimmers take a few laps while the guys on the deck get used to the atmosphere. Lower left, Adam Petro, Kyle O'Keefe take a few moments during the brief work out. On home page, Coach Peter Casares talks with Blaine Cooper-Surma, left, and Kyle Weaver, right.