Updated Thu, Nov 15, 2012 4:09 pm
The change from quarters to semesters in the academic calendar at Ohio University brought up a new opportunity for the Ohio Swimming and Diving team. After many years of conflicting schedules, the Bobcats will travel to Fairfax, Va., to participate in the Patriot Invitational at George Mason University this weekend.
“When the announcement was made that we were moving to semesters, we immediately looked back into going to this competition and we are very excited about it,” said head coach Greg Werner.
The Patriot Invitational used to be held during preparation for finals week for many of Ohio’s swimmers, keeping them from participating in the meet.
“Little did I know, that it would be us who would change our academic schedule rather than they switch the date of the meet, that would enable us to go,” joked Wagner.
The Patriot Invitational is important to Ohio because it takes place in the heart of one of its recruiting zones. This gives potential recruits a chance to see the team in action and allows parents and families of team members from the area to watch their daughters without traveling far.
This will also be the first chance this season the Bobcats will get a feel for how the Mid-American Conference Championships will run.
“One of the reasons why we are going to this invitational is because it is a preliminary and final competition in three consecutive days, just like the MAC Championships,” Wagner explained. “We want to take advantage of this opportunity. This will help us prepare for the future.”
Unlike dual meets, an invitational includes more than one opponent. Most invitational meets last over several days, each consisting of preliminary and final heats.
To keep the attention of his swimmers during an invitational for an extended period of time, Wagner is known to hold regular meetings, which has become the subject of many jokes among the teammates.
“We have a lot of meetings, (the team) actually laughs at the number of meetings we have. Sometimes we even have a meeting to announce that we are having a meeting. You have to keep them organized; we have to keep them focused.”
Along with growing together as a team, an invitational is seen as an opportunity to fine-tune the skills of each athlete.
In dual meets, it is difficult for a coaching staff to view each member of the team that is swimming during each race, so they look to an invitational to get a better look at each swimmer individually.
“In an invitational,” says Wagner, ”there may be up to 8 heats where we could have one person in this heat, two in that heat…it makes it easier for the coaching staff to watch that one person instead of trying to watch four or five at once.”
The nature of an invitational allows swimmers to showcase their talents individually. This means a swimmer may perform a lot better and place higher than the rest of the team. However, Wagner makes very clear that his squad performs as a team.
“We want to do well as a team. We always put team above individual. But it is so important around this time of the year to concentrate on individual mastery of skills, things that we can improve upon. Also, refine those things we are doing very well,” he said.
Wagner is looking forward to the Patriot Invitational to give his team a challenge that will prepare them for the rest of the year. He enjoys the experience and progress gained with each meet.
“It’s nice in this sport that these dual meets and invitationals are more of a litmus test. They tell us where we are. It’s not an all life-consuming experience like in some of the other sports that if they don’t win, that means they cannot go to the championship game…For us, we know we are in the conference championships. Our goal is to continue to move forward and continue to prepare,” said Wagner.
With the pros and cons of a dual meet versus an invitational, it is easy to see how important it is for swimmers to experience both styles during the season.
“They’re completely different animals. I like the invitationals because it reminds us of the championship-like format, but I also like the dual meets. They’re short, sweet; you get in and out of there. The team has enthusiasm and focus,” explained Wagner.
The Patriot Invitational began at 10 a.m. Thursday and continues through Saturday with finals at 6 p.m. at the George Mason University Aquatic and Fitness Center.