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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Swimming kicks off season on the road for sixth straight season

Photo by FILE

The Aggies men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams both will look to improve in multiple areas this season.

Both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams will open their 2017-18 seasons with a double header against Notre Dame and Michigan State this weekend. 
The men enter this season ranked No. 15 in the College Swimming Coaches Association of America Top 25 poll, and ended last season in 16th place at the NCAA Championships, which was their first top 20 finish since 2012. The team is returning seven swimmers from this meet, including senior Mauro Castillo, who is the No. 18 swimmer in the nation according to Swimming World Magazine. 
“Mauro Castillo probably had the best year,” Jay Holmes, A&M men’s head coach, said. “He got third in the NCAA Championships, did a great job for us all year long. He does a great job for us in dual meets. He swam hurt at conference and still did a great job for us and then went to NCAAs.” 
The women’s team concluded the 2016-17 season with their second consecutive SEC Championship title and a third place finish at the NCAA meet, which was their highest finish in program history. They return 10 first team or honorable mention All-Americans and six swimmers that won relay or individual SEC titles.
“Obviously moving up to third at NCAAs was huge,” Steve Bultman, A&M women’s head coach, said. “To do that, our highest finish, that was awesome. To repeat as SEC Champions, that was awesome.”
The Aggies’ success continued into the summer, with several swimmers competing in the US Open Water Championships, the Southeast Asian Games and the World University Games. Both teams won the combined crown in the US Open Water Championships for the first time in school history with 484 points.
“Whenever they are able to go to meets like that, they are definitely representing their country,” Holmes said. “The swimming world knows where they go to college, they know what university they go to, so they’re representing us even though they’re technically racing for their home country. It builds a lot of confidence to be able to do something like that on a world stage. The world stage is a big deal.”
Two Aggies from the women’s team competed at the Southeast Asian Games, with freshman Jing Wen Quah representing Singapore and sophomore Golf Sapianchai representing Thailand. Quah secured the gold in the 200-meter butterfly, breaking a 2008 Singapore record with her time of 2:12.03. Sapianchai helped lead Thailand to a silver medal in the 400-meter freestyle relay.
“Any time you do something really well, that definitely helps out confidence,” Bultman said. “Confidence is so important in how they’re going to perform. The more confident swimmer is going to do better four times out of five.”
The women’s team, which is predominantly underclassmen, lost five seniors to graduation last year, but Bultman is confident in his newcomers’ ability to pick up the slack.
“We lost a really good swimmer in Sarah Gibson who graduated last year,” Bultman said. “We’ve got a real good freshman class. I don’t know that any one of them are going to replace her, but maybe a combination of a couple of them can help replace her.”
The women’s team is going up against, Notre Dame’s women’s swim team is ranked No. 24, while their men’s team is ranked No. 19.
“Just looking at how the two teams match up, there’s going to be some great races that are going on,” Holmes said. “From a competition standpoint, we’re ranked pretty close to each other on a lot of those rankings. I think it’s going to be a great meet.” 
Both Fighting Irish teams are coming off an upset over Louisville, who is ranked 10th in both the men’s and women’s rankings.
“That was a big upset,” Bultman said. “They really swam well and if we’re not ready, we could come back not very happy with the results as far as the win or loss. They surprised a lot of people beating Louisville and they had some really good times. I’m looking forward to seeing how we are at this point, and seeing how the new girls do in their first dual meet.”
Heading into this meet, as well as into the rest of the season, Holmes is emphasizing the importance of focus in his team.
“It’d be easy to just mindlessly be putting in the work and not paying attention, but we’re asking a little bit of focus of them,” Holmes said. “That’s one of the things we’ve spent a lot of time on this year, helping them understand that we’re all in this together and if we want to do some really great things, we’re going to need all of us together to get there.”
Texas A&M will face both Notre Dame and Michigan State on Friday, and then compete against Notre Dame on Saturday. The Aggies look to this meet as a step toward another successful SEC and NCAA Championship run.
“In college maybe you have a lot of tests that you don’t want to take, but this is one everybody wants to take,” Holmes said. “There’s not a better conference out there than the SEC. We’ve got to figure out how to be competitive at that meet. We’ve got to be able to perform at the highest level at that meet, and then turn around and do it again at the NCAA Championships. Those are the two meets that are always going to be circled on our calendar.”

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