This weekend, Ball State men’s swimming and diving will face defending Mid-American Conference champs Eastern Michigan. Head swimming coach Bob Thomas said this meet is a great place to face a team like Eastern.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to have the best program in the conference visit and have a dual meet one-on-one with them,” Thomas said. “It’s just something that you don’t get all of the time, to be able to swim against a team of that caliber.”

It’s sort of like a “David versus Goliath” type of meet.

“I mean, if that’s how you look at it,” Thomas said. “I look at it as an opportunity to go against some of the best swimmers in the league. They're training, they're swimming hard right now and they're tired. Hopefully our guys can get in there and mix it up with them.”

So how have the Eagles been doing this season?

Eastern Michigan started the season off with a win against a Big Ten foe Northwestern (153-141) and a loss to a Southeastern Conference opponent in Kentucky (113-184).

A few meets later, the Eagles hosted the EMU Invite, in which they won the meet, where the Cardinals finished in second place. Though at this meet, they had 57 season-best times out of 60 performances. For this Eagle squad, these are the events to watch: 100-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke, 400-yard freestyle relay and three-meter diving.

In the 100-yard freestyle, the Cardinals have to watch out for both freshman Carter Swift and junior Jake Tyson. At the EMU Invite, Tyson recorded a season-best time (45.47), while Swift added 15 tenths of a second (45.43).

In the 100-yard backstroke, both junior Tosh Kawaguchi and senior Logan Burton recorded season-best times. Kawaguchi in 49.09 seconds and Burton in 49.34 seconds.

The relay that stands out for EMU is the 400-yard freestyle relay, consisting of Swift, Burton, freshman Alec Hoch and Tyson. This ‘A’ relay posted a season-best time at the EMU Invite, recording a 2:59.56, a new pool record at EMU.

For three-meter diving, sophomore Noah Galluzzo and senior Peter Rusenas posted season-best dives and placed first and second, respectively. 

Since the tri-meet on Jan. 5, the Cardinals have returned home to Lewellen and began both new schedules for class and practice.

Sophomore Logan Ackley swam against both Kawaguchi and Burton in the 100-yard backstroke at the EMU Invite. Ackley said these two athletes are going to be tough to beat.

“Hopefully I can stay with them,” Ackley said. “I mean they’re going to be hard, but hopefully I can stay with them for most of it and put up a best time.”

At the tri-meet against IUPUI, University of Indianapolis and Xavier, Ackley posted top finishes in both the 100-yard backstroke and 200-yard backstroke. Ackley said he wants to continue to put up good times for the team, help the team out and score points.

Like Ackley, senior Banistre Lienhart had a stand-out performance at the tri-meet on Jan. 5. Lienhart said he wants to continue to swim the 100-yard freestyle and 50-yard freestyle.

“I’m more concentrating on sprinting right now, so I want to see my times getting faster in the 50 and 100,” Leinhart said. “I need to work on my 200 a little bit, but with time it will get better.”

Lienhart will be facing both Swift and Tyson in the 100-yard freestyle. He said EMU is a very tough team to face.

“They have a lot of depth and they're the best program in the MAC,” Lienhart said. “It can be a little daunting to some of the guys, but I just hope we go out there, give our best effort and see if we can put up some good times and edge some of them out.”

At the tri-meet, Lienhart lead the ‘A’ relay to a fifth place finish. He said he hopes to get at least second against EMU.

“I think we have enough 100-yard freestyle depth to pull that off,” Lienhart said. “It will be a good relay race, but we will just have to wait to see.”

Besides the swimmers having tough competition, the divers will also face a tough diving squad in Eastern Michigan.

Practices for diving haven't been easy either. Head diving coach Nick Gayes said they have been a little tough, due to one of the divers being sick.

“Sean was sick and Trey has been hurt, so it’s been a little hit-and-miss,” Gayes said. “Trey will be out this weekend, so it will be Sean and Gabe. Mainly, we have just been working on a few changes with Gabe. We might do some different dives in addition to a different order of stuff. I don’t know what exactly they are yet.”

Junior Gabe Dean has been focused on two dives for three-meter diving: reverse two-and-a half and front three-and-a half. 

“Those are the two that I need to get down,” Dean said. “Come MAC time, I need to be able to get all six dives that I can hit reasonably well. These two standout to me right now as the two dives that I’m not consistently hitting.”

Facing two of the best in the MAC, Dean said it’s going to be interesting diving against Galluzzo and Rusenas.

“We know that EMU’s the best diving team in the MAC and they have some really great divers,” Dean said. “So unless they hit their head on the board or do something, there’s no way I can beat them. But I can’t focus on that. I can just focus on doing my dives, think about the little corrections that coach has been giving us this week and put those corrections into action in the meet.”

For this meet, both coaches know that EMU will come in ready for another victory. 

“As a team, they’re going to come in and do their thing,” Gayes said. “We’re just going to focus on our dives. We know where we can be competitive and where we can’t. What we’re going to try and do is have good performances for ourselves and hopefully get better each week.”

The meet is slated to start at 1 p.m. at Lewellen Pool.