After two straight losses in its home pool to top-10 teams, the RV/No. 18 Wisconsin swim and dive team (0-4 men, 0-4 women) is headed on the road to Minneapolis to take on three formidable Big Ten opponents during the Big Ten Quad Duals.
It is unusual for the Badgers to be taking on multiple Big Ten opponents this early in the season, but it’s also unusual for Hite’s team to have not hit its stride yet. This may be in part due to the continued absence of junior captain Cierra Runge, who has not yet made her season debut and is not expected to compete at Minnesota. Runge’s exact situation is still unclear, but her absence from competition remains one of the major stories in NCAA swimming this season. In addition to Runge, the Badgers may be down one more of their top swimmers in Minneapolis — sophomore Beata Nelson competed with an illness last week against NC State and is questionable for Quad Duals.
The Badgers’ opponents this weekend, RV/No. 17 Minnesota (0-2, 2-0), No. 7/No. 3 Michigan (2-0, 2-0) and Penn State (1-1, 0-2) are all battle tested against tough opponents, but it can be argued that Wisconsin has the much tougher strength of schedule here.
Swimmers to watch during this meet include Michigan senior G Ryan, the Big Ten women’s champion in both the 500-yard freestyle and the mile. If Runge were to compete this weekend, the longer freestyles would be the marquee races of the meet with former training partners going head-to-head. Michigan is also locked and loaded on the men’s side with distance swimmers, including sophomore Felix Aubock, who shocked the world last year with his out-of-nowhere, dominating wins at Big Tens in both distance races. He will take on Wisconsin senior Victor Goicoechea, who is himself a world-class distance freestyler.
Minnesota has a dominant backstroker in Tevyn Waddell who will attempt to give the Badgers all they can handle this weekend. Waddell won the 200-yard backstroke at last year’s Big Ten Championships but was neck and neck with Nelson and Wisconsin junior Jess Unicomb. Expect the rematch of that race to be just as big of a battle as the original if Nelson is well enough to compete. On the men’s side, Minnesota senior Conner McHugh will provide a challenge for Wisconsin freshman M.J. Mao and sophomore Camille Hodge in the breaststrokes.
With the graduation of Irish Olympian Shane Ryan, the Penn State men are in full rebuild mode this year. Its team does not include a single NCAA qualifier from last season and is chock full of freshmen. One interesting matchup to look out for includes Wisconsin freshman Ido Haber and Israeli National Team teammate, PSU junior Tomer Zamir, which will likely happen on a relay. On the women’s side, watch for junior distance freestyler Ally McHugh to jump into contention in both the 500-yard free and the mile with Ryan and Wisconsin’s Maddi Tew and Grace Tierney.
The meet opens Friday night at 6 p.m. in Minneapolis and continues Saturday at 10 a.m.