Hanging (Big) Ten

By By Tony Pizza

By Tony Pizza

Ute swimmers will be heading east this weekend for a “who’s who” pool party in the Ohio State Invitational.

Familiar faces will be present for the Utes, as they will get to see the No. 18 Purdue Boilermakers and Denver Pioneers for the second time this year.

Although the rest of the teams competing in the invitational will be new to the Utes, there is no need for introductions.

In addition to Purdue and host Ohio State–which is ranked No. 12 in the country–No. 17 Notre Dame and No. 7 Minnesota, which is the reigning Ohio State Invitational champ, will also make the short trip to Columbus for this battle of Big Ten Conference giants.

The Utes seem to be a little fish in a big pond, but head coach Mike Litzinger expects half of his team to be very competitive this weekend.

“We (the women) have a very, very good shot at finishing in the top two or three in this meet,” Litzinger said. “It’s pretty exciting for our women to go up against some big-name schools.”

Litzinger doesn’t have any wild fantasies of the men competing for first-place finishes, but he knows that this will be a valuable experience for getting the men exposed to high-end competition and will prepare them for events like the Mountain West Conference Championships in February.

“The men have a tall order,” said Litzinger. “The reality of it is, this is the exact competitive situation that we were in at Purdue and Georgia and we like that?it prepares them for the end of the year.”

The goal for the Utes–especially for the men–will be to measure themselves against teams like South Carolina and Iowa, and to duplicate the dominance the Utes had over Denver at the start of the year.

With the Ute men traveling out east for the second time in November, the Utes are surely gaining valuable exposure east of the Rocky Mountains, which undoubtedly provides a bonus on the recruiting front for the future.

The Ohio State Invitational also provides one last competition for 2006.

After the three-day invitational, the Utes will have a month-long respite for final exams and Winter Break before the calendar rolls over to a new year and the Utes embark on the second part of their season.

When the season resumes in January, the swimming and diving team will have one chance to knock the rust off against TCU on Jan. 13 before starting the conference portion of the schedule.