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Dual Meets Set Up Championship Season

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The countdown begins until the Penn State swimmers and divers have the opportunity to put all of their hard work to the test at the 2013 Big Ten Championships. Until then, the Nittany Lions will have two more chances to compete in dual meets over the next few weeks.

8322128.jpegThe women start their championship season in 32 days in Minneapolis, Minn., while the men compete 39 days from now in Bloomington, Ind. The swimmers and divers will use the dual meets against Navy and Towson to fine-tune all the details they have been practicing day in and day out to ensure they are prepared for Big Tens.

Junior Mackenzie Powers looks forward to the dual meets coming up and plans to use them as rehearsals for competing in one of the top championship meets in the nation next month.

"I think having the opportunity to race and work on the small things, like starts and turns, throughout the season helps us prepare for when Big Tens comes around," Powers said. "These last two meets will be especially important because they are some of our last chances to race before we rest and taper."

Throughout the season, the swimmers and divers have traveled to five different states not only for competition, but also to feel what it will be like to swim in an unfamiliar setting after spending a day traveling.

Powers says that their travel trips to Indiana and Georgia earlier this season were good indications for what is to come at the end of the season.

"As a team we've had a lot of really good meets where we came together and we could all see that we were going in the direction of the goals that we have set," Powers said. "The next two meets will be important for us as well in that aspect to see where we are compared to how much time we have left before Big Tens."

In addition to getting used to traveling and competing at new sites, dual meets also help to prepare the athlete mentally for the challenges that Big Tens will bring. The swimmers and divers must be ready to compete for four days despite any fatigue they may feel from racing multiple times.

Matthew Salig says that dual meets help him prepare mentally as well as physically for the end of the season.

"Dual meets have three to four races on one day whereas the events at Big Tens are spread out a little bit more," Salig said. "This helps us mentally prepare for Big Tens knowing that we were able to race more times in one day at other meets earlier in the season."

An important aspect that the Nittany Lions established early in the season is creating an exciting atmosphere by standing on their feet and cheering their teammates on throughout the whole meet.

"Dual meets gives us a different kind of energy than if we just raced each other in practice," Salig said. "Our goal at dual meets is to create an atmosphere that is similar to Big Tens by getting behind each other."

Powers agrees with how important it is to use the atmosphere that her teammates create to help get through some of the tough dual meets throughout the season.

"Dual meets are just fun to get behind each other, especially in the meets where we are tired and we have to use the energy from our teammates to get us through," Powers said. "It's important situations like these where we see everyone is in it together and that we are all working towards a common goal that is going to help us reach our goals at Big Tens."

Starting the pre-season in August and ending the championship season in March with NCAA Championships, the swimmers and divers have to find ways to stay motivated through smaller meets before they get to the big shave and taper meets.

"I try to remember feelings I've had in the past like dropping a good race for my team to stay motivated," Salig said. "Knowing that you have teammates going through the same practices with you and racing with you at the end of the season helps me stay focused on our goals."

Next on their schedule, the swimmers and divers will welcome Navy to McCoy Natatorium on Jan. 26. The following weekend continues the tradition of the annual senior meet, which is against Towson on Feb. 2.  Then the women will have 18 days before they open their championship and take what they have learned through dual meet season to compete against other Big Ten contenders.

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