When the men's swimming and diving team travels to Bowling Green, Ky. Saturday for a dual meet with Western Kentucky University, two old friends will reunite.
Cardinals coach Bob Thomas and Hilltopper's headmaster Bill Powell have seen a lot of swimming. Thomas is in his 22nd year as the Cardinals head coach while Powell's tenure at Western dates back to the 1960s. Some of the first glimpses the two got of each other, however, came from a slightly different perspective.
"I know Coach Powell from when I was+â-è a competitor," Thomas said. "He was coaching at Western while I was swimming, and actually, I had one of the best swims of my career against his team."
Now, Thomas will stand on the pool deck across from Powell, and hope that the good performances come from the Cardinals in what is sure to be a competitive environment.
"Coach Powell knows all the tricks," Thomas said. "He always gets his guys up for the meet, and we've always had great competitions with them."
The Hilltoppers field a strong team, led by a powerful group of freestyle swimmers. Last weekend, competing in an invitational at the United States Military Academy, the Hilltopper 400-yard freestyle relay turned in a time 3:07, three seconds faster than the Cardinals season best effort in that event.
"That event is the strength of a team," Thomas said. "Give me any team around, and I take a look at their 400-freestyle relay, and I can tell yes or no. Half the events in a meet are freestyle, and if they're strong in that event, they'll be strong overall."
Leading the way for Western are senior David Tucker and junior Gord Veldman. Tucker leads the Western sprint corps while Veldman has narrowly missed qualifying for the NCAA championships in the backstroke events the past two seasons. Thomas said that in their pool, Western has the advantage over the Cardinals. However, he does point out some weaknesses that his team may be able to exploit.
"I think one Achilles heel for them is breaststroke right now," Thomas said. "That is a potential strong area for us. They're also very similar to us in the individual medley and diving could be huge. Our guys are just freshmen. They're taking little tiny steps right now, and we need them to mature in a hurry."
With another strong opponent looking them in the face, the Cardinals, who are fresh off an impressive showing against Michigan State, will attempt to continue the improvements that Thomas says they have exhibited each meet this season.
"They've got the edge, but I think we'll give them a good meet," Thomas said. "I like to think that as the underdog, we'll just have to fight harder but, hopefully we'll give them all they expect and then some."