By Luis Barroso/Staff Writer
When we talk about swimming, this is the point in which expectations are met, where athletes soar over the pressure and success is measured, or you could also crumb under the bright lights under you. This is the Conference USA Championships, it is the final checkpoint of the season, it is where the ladies shave completely, put on their space age technology fast suits that are only used by this time a year, and swim fast.
The date has been set for this today, Wednesday, Feb. 26 in Atlanta, GA a facility that for four days will witness the best swimmer athletes of the C-USA, lights will shine extra bright during those four days, by having the spotlight on a pool full of dreams and hopes, hopes to advance to the NCAA Championships as well, the ultimate challenge in college sports and Division-I swimming.
The Panthers are set to come out strong from the platforms.
“Everybody is 100 percent healthy and good to go, just in our rest phase now and ready to go on Monday,” Head Coach Randy Horner said.
This has been a successful season so far for the Panthers by only dropping one dual meet during their run, but this is where all of those times and races really matter.
“Conference Championships is the focus of the season, everything we do for the past 12 months is culminating in this stage, be able to reach some peak performances and hopefully be able to move on with a handful of kids into the NCAA Championships,” Horner said.
There are many swimmers to look out for in the FIU roster willing to make a run for the NCAA Championships. Senior Sonia Perez is already a lock to go to the NCAA as she is ranked 13 in the mid-season point, she also is recipient for some of the C-USA Swimmer of the Week awards this season.
Junior Johanna Gustafsdottir also owns a very good chance to return to the NCAA Championships as she has done for her first two seasons here at FIU as a freshman and sophomore, with her time mid season, she would probably get in, but she can probably set a better time on the conference finals to reach her third consecutive appearance in as many years to the big stage.
Senior Sabrina Beaupre also has a big chance coming into this week to make it into the nationals, she is already qualified into the Zones Diving Regionals, which is a week after the Conference Final, and that’s where she will earn her spot. Beaupre has never lost a conference event during the three years she has been in this program, she has conquered the one-meter as well as the three-meter dive her freshman, sophomore and junior year in the SBC.
“As her record of being undefeated is on the line now in a tougher division and now through platform diving, but she is diving better than she has in her past four years, has been looking good and I think she’s going to compete real well,” Horner said.
Another swimmer that can hit the podium this week can be junior Klara Anderson, the reigning champion on the Sun Belt Conference Championship on the 50 free for the Panthers.
As FIU reaches a new conference, difficulty also rises for the swimmer.
“It’s a lot faster the depth of the field with nine teams here, which raises the level of competition and taking better times to reach finals and consolations. It will take a perfect week for us to finish on top, but a top three finish is the goal with this new elevated conference,” Horner said.
Teams to look out for in this new C-USA can are the defending champion Rice, Eastern Carolina, Western Kentucky as the reigning Sun Belt champion, along with North Texas and FIU.
Panthers set out to travel to Georgia this Monday for the Conference Final.