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Texas A&M swimming teams to compete at Art Adamson Invite with eye on postseason
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Texas A&M swimming teams to compete at Art Adamson Invite with eye on postseason

The college swimming and diving postseason is four months away, but it will be in the back of the minds of competitors at the 10th annual Art Adamson Invitational on Wednesday through Friday at Texas A&M’s Rec Center Natatorium.

“This is the closest thing we have to get ready for our SEC Championships, which is a four and a half day meet,” A&M men’s swimming & diving coach Jay Holmes said. “We have dual meets, and we only do one invite and this is it.”

The 14th-ranked A&M men will battle 15th-ranked Alabama, 17th-ranked Southern California, 22nd-ranked TCU, LSU and Air Force. Joining the 22nd-ranked A&M women will be sixth-ranked Alabama, 19th-ranked Arkansas, LSU, TCU and Washington State.

“It’s a good cross-section of teams,” Holmes said. “There will be a lot of excited people over on the pool deck over at the Student Rec.”

Preliminaries will start each day at 9:30 a.m. with finals at 5:30 p.m. Admission to the meet is free.

With some swimmers competing in a couple events daily, it will be a good gauge of their endurance, prepping them for the SECs and NCAAs.

The men’s top agenda is qualifying as many relays as possible for the NCAA Championships. There have been years when A&M qualified in all five relays, which takes a lot of pressure off the team the rest of the regular season, Holmes said.

“It’s hard to get all four guys together on the same page at the same time,” said Holmes, who also is relying on some freshmen. “In the 200s, the takeoffs are incredibly important [and we’re] relying on a couple of freshmen not used to how refined a start needs to be at an NCAA level. It will be interesting for us to see how those guys will respond.”

A&M’s women are 3-2 in dual meets this season and coming off victories over 12th-ranked Kentucky and TCU.

“We’re excited to see where they are, especially the freshmen,” A&M women’s coach Steve Bultman said. “This is the first time we’ll see them under these situations.”

A&M gained confidence in a hard-fought 154-146 victory over Kentucky.

“We knew the first relay was going to be crucial to winning,” Bultman said. “And we thought we’d won only to find out one of the girls had false started by a hundredth of a second. But the girls came right back. The girls said they knew that was tough, but they just kept battling, and we ended up winning the meet.”

Juniors Abby Grottle (1,650-yard freestyle, 500 freestyle) and Chloe Stepanek (100, 200 freestyles) were double winners against Kentucky. Freshman Giulia Goerigk from Germany impressed with a third in the 400 individual medley in 4 minutes, 25.42 seconds.

“I’m excited to see what she can do this week, because she has a great chance to pick up her NCAA cut [time],” Bultman said.

The A&M men’s team has a pair of freshmen to build around in Baylor Nelson and Connor Foote.

“They’ve been pretty much as advertised,” Holmes said. “Both those kids were top junior recruits in the country. No matter the event, they were highly ranked. Baylor’s been very impressive. We knew he was a racer. We knew he’s not that big of a kid, but it’s amazing when he steps in the blocks how big he swims.”

Foote is adjusting to the higher level of competition.

“It’s interesting for us to see him in situations,” Holmes said. “He still knows that it’s a pretty simple sport — whoever touches the wall first wins. But the process is to get him there. He’s still adapting to it, but the beauty of Connor is that he’s not making it too complicated.”

• NOTESArt Adamson was A&M’s swimming coach from 1934-70. His 35-year reign is the longest in school history, followed by track and field’s Charlies Thomas (32 years, 1959-90) and soccer’s G Guerrieri (30 years, 1993-current). ... The A&M diving teams this week are competing in Austin at the Texas Diving Invitational, which Holmes said will be a good preview of the NCAA meet. ... A&M will host the SEC Championships on Feb. 14-18. ... The A&M men are 2-2 in duals, having lost to second-ranked Texas and eighth-ranked Indiana 220-80. “That wasn’t that much fun when we went over there [to Austin],” Holmes said. “It was a great learning experience. It was a double dual meet. When you do a lineup, you’re competing against both teams at the same time, and we got caught in the middle of a buzzsaw between Indiana and Texas, who were going at each other and there’s not much we could do about it. That was frustrating for our team. That’s just part of our learning curve.”

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