DAY 29 (Aug. 29): Just Keep Swimming
Most of the Azusa Pacific athletic department is preparing for a bit of the unknown in its transition to the Pacific West Conference (or Great Northwest Athletic Conference for football). The Cougar women’s swimming and diving team isn’t. Over the past four years the team has competed in the Pacific Coast Swimming Conference (PCSC), which includes programs from all levels of the NCAA and the NAIA. And amid all of the changes at Azusa Pacific it will be one of the few constants as it continues to be the conference home for the Cougars.
The transition to NCAA Div. II won’t change much of the team’s competition, as the Cougars are already accustomed to swimming against some of the best programs in the southwest. As in years past Azusa Pacific will swim at multiple NCAA Div. I meets, including the UNLV Invite, the Malibu Invite (hosted by PCSC foe Pepperdine), and the Cal Poly Shootout.
The Cougars have duals scheduled with Cal State East Bay and Biola, and their other meets are conference contests. Almost nothing about the 2012-13 schedule looks different than the previous year’s. Compare that to the football team’s schedule which has just one common opponent and you can see just how little the transition impacts the swimming and diving program’s competition.
But that isn’t to say the move to Div. II doesn’t have an enormous effect on head coach Tim Kyle and his swimmers.
“It’s driving everything in our program to meet a higher standard. Right now they’re a little anxious, not sure exactly what to expect. It’s a transition and they’re all very excited about it,” said Kyle. “Our job as coaches is to guide and mentor them through this process.”
Like at any other swimming and diving program everything the team does is geared towards that final meet…typically a national championship contest. All of the workouts are set to make sure that the swimmers can perform their best in their final race. This year the Cougars aren’t eligible to compete for a national title, so the PCSC championships will have to do.
“We’re geared for the PCSCs this year That’s everything. There’s nothing after that for us,” said Kyle.
Over the previous four seasons the PCSC championship has served as a springboard into the NAIA national championships, but this year it will be the event the team trains towards.
Another change is that the Cougars will have to adjust from training to meet NAIA qualifying times to NCAA Div. II times so that the team is well prepared for the 2015 season when they will be eligible to compete for NCAA championships.
And while the Cougars have a talented group returning, led by Tink Gibb, Quinn Robertson, Simone Garcia, Cameron Hagen, and All-American Kassandra Duncan none of them will still be at Azusa Pacific come 2015.
“We’re working towards NCAA Div. II qualifying times. To get there we’ll have to not only recruit faster athletes, but install that philosophy into our training as well. It’s going to be a difficult transition, but I’m very excited about our future,” said Kyle.
Last season Azusa Pacific finished in fifth place at the NAIA national championships in just its fourth year of competition. The team kicks off its upcoming season on Oct. 12 at the PCSC relays.