Junior swimmer Nick Bracco and the rest of the men’s swimming and diving team find themselves heading into unfamiliar water this weekend.
For the last eight seasons, the National Intercollegiate Championship has been home to the Hilltoppers.
But this year will be different.
This year Western will travel to Carbondale, Ill., for the Missouri Valley Conference Championships which begins today.
The change came as a result of wanting better competition. In the NIC, Western was facing foes that were fully funded and more competitive.
Even though Western was out-funded, Powell was able to respectfully get three runner-ups in the eight year span.
With the move to the MVC, Western will be able to compete for victories, instead of runner-up spots.
The change will not be easy for Western. It has had its problems with conference opponents, losing to Southern Illinois at home and being pounded on the road against Southwest Missouri State by 82 points.
But the losses have not only come in conference competition. The Toppers have since lost three of the last five meets. Those losses were especially hard to take after building a 19-0 win streak dating back from last season.
The latest losing spell has choked off any momentum Western may have had entering the postseason.
But Bracco isn’t worried.
“Positive momentum is overrated,” Bracco said. “The losses only give us fuel. We were broken down and we are ready to let it loose and swim hard.”
On paper the Toppers are far from the favorite. But coach Bill Powell said that’s why they swim the meets. Paper doesn’t mean a thing, he said.
For Powell, this is chance to add another comeback story to his long list of victories.
Powell found himself in a similar situation in the late 1980s after SMS had pounded his team in the regular season. His team came out from nowhere to take first place in the championship.
“It’s a whole new meet,” Powell said. “Everybody’s rested; I’m not counting out our chances.”
Reach Wes Watt at [email protected]