Wisconsin head swim and dive coach Whitney Hite has tried his hardest over the last few seasons to schedule a veritable gauntlet of meets for his athletes during the first half of the season, and this year has been no exception.
The Badgers opened their dual meet season with narrow losses to SEC powerhouse Auburn on both the men’s and women’s sides, but came away from that meet with seven provisional NCAA qualifiers. Last Thursday, they traveled to Minneapolis and split the annual Border Battle meet, with the men taking their second overall loss of the season and the women picking up their first dual meet victory.
Waiting for them this weekend in Raleigh, N.C., is a North Carolina State team that is opening its season later than most and is pulling out all the stops for a two-day dual meet Friday and Saturday.
On the men’s side, the Wolfpack’s sprint-heavy team features three Olympians in Danes Anton Ipsen, Soren Dahl and American gold medalist Ryan Held. Dahl and Held should create scary matchups in the pool for Wisconsin seniors Brett Pinfold and Cannon Clifton and be a major area of concern for the Badgers’ top relays.
The matchup between three foreign distance stars in Ipsen and Badgers' Matt Hutchins and Victor Goicoechea in the 500-yard freestyle and the mile will also be one to watch, as all three are coming into the season with similar times. On the boards, look for freshman Kevin Pomeroy to continue to improve on his NCAA-qualifying score in the three-meter event.
On the women’s side, NC State All-Americans Hannah Moore and Rachel Muller will attempt to cause trouble for the Badgers in the distance and mid-distance events, where sophomore Cierra Runge, junior Abby Jagdfeld and senior Danielle Valley have all been dominant this season. The most exciting potential matchup of the meet on either side is between Badger freshman Beata Nelson and NC State senior Natalie Labonge in the 100-yard butterfly. Nelson was lights-out in high school and holds a national record in the event, but has not yet swum it in college. With Labonge boasting some of the best butterfly times in the country, this race could be Nelson’s proving ground to see if she can hang in the hyper-fast NCAA.
On Friday, the Badgers hit the pool in Raleigh, N.C., at 3 p.m., and return for a second day of competition at 9 a.m. on Saturday. NC State will be providing live stream coverage of both events on its website.