March 13, 2007
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Head coach Dan Ross is confident his team will be a success at this year's NCAA Championships, even though none of his student-athletes have scored at this high-level meet.
Purdue's roster consists of two-time NCAA qualifier Romain Maire and divers Danny Cox and Zach Schultz. The divers are making their debuts at national's, which begin Thursday morning at the University of Minnesota.
"I have more confidence in Romain than ever before," said Ross of his junior. "He wants to be here and believes he should be here."
Not only has Maire posted faster times this season, he's also added the 400 individual medley to his repertoire. The junior is seeded seventh in the 400 IM, 14th in the 200 IM and 10th in the 200 back.
Ross said Maire's morning swims from last month's Big Ten's would have scored at the 2006 NCAA's, but the 2007 edition is expected to be a much faster meet.
Time is on the side of divers Cox and Schultz. Cox is only a freshman while Schultz is enjoying his second full-year of diving.
For Ross, it's important to get swimmers and divers to NCAA's early in their careers so they can see what they're in for.
"(Diving Coach) Adam (Soldati) has done a heck of a job with these guys, and it's important for them to have this kind of experience while they're still young," said Ross. "No one thought these guys would be here, but I'm sure they'll come through for us."
Although Purdue is taking just three student-athletes, it doesn't mean they'll fall short of matching last year's 16th-place finish. Of Purdue's 59 points from 2006, 43 of them were scored by All-American diver Steven LoBue. Giordan Pogioli tallied 14 and the 200 medley relay scored two.
Ross also recalls the 1997 team, which finished 19th on the strength of top-eight showings by Matt Brown (200 and 400 IM) and Vilmos Kovacs (100 and 200 breaststroke).
"I wish we were bringing more swimmers, but I'm happy with the ones we've got," said Ross. "We can't control the points, but everyone is focused and ready to do something special."
Meet The Contestants
Romain Maire - Junior
Junior Romain Maire of Dijon, France, qualified for his third NCAA Championship in as many years after recording a personal best of 1:43.63 in the 200 backstroke at the Big Ten Championships. Not only is Maire a threat to score for the Boilermakers in the 200 back, but he possesses the necessary skills finish among the top 16 in the 200 and 400 individual medley.
2006-07 has been Maire's breakout season, becoming this season's version of a Louis Paul or Giordan Pogioli - someone who can be counted on to score in all situations. In addition to his 'A'-cut performance in the 200 back at Big Ten's, Maire also helped set a varsity record in the 800 freestyle relay (6:34.62) with his 200-yard leadoff split of 1:38.31.
Maire was the conference runner-up in the 400 IM at 3:47.33, and was third in the 200 IM at 1:46.65. Both those times marked tremendous progress over the past year as his previous best in the 400 IM was four seconds slower at 3:51.24, and his 200 IM entering this year was two seconds slower at 1:48.49.
Zach Schultz - Sophomore
Sophomore Zach Schultz of Chicago accepted a bulk of the diving team's leadership responsibilities following senior Steve LoBue's injury at the start of 2007. Without the All-American around to anchor the Purdue diving corps, Schultz went out and made a name for himself, winning all four springboard competitions at Michigan and Michigan State.
Schultz also was victorious off the 1-meter at the Wisconsin/Minnesota Triangular, earning a varsity record total of 377.45 points.
Schultz kept clicking during the postseason as he placed among the topeight off all three boards at Big Ten's, and was a top-5 finisher at Zones in the 1-meter and tower competitions. Schultz clinched his first NCAA appearance after placing third off the platform with 658.45 points.
A Big Ten Diver of the Week (Jan. 23), Schultz scored 42 points at the conference meet as Purdue placed sixth for a second-consecutive year with 375.5 points. Incredibly, Purdue diving was responsible for 133 of those points as the Boilermakers were the only program to have all four of their divers score in each event.
Danny Cox - Freshman
Danny Cox, a native of Menomonee Falls, Wis., also played a major role in Purdue diving's success at Big Ten's. The rookie phenom placed third off tower (364.50), fifth off 1-meter (323.85) and sixth off 3-meter (344.70), totaling 43 points.
Cox's performances at Big Ten's earned him a share of the 2007 Big Ten Freshman of the Year title with Ohio State's Hugh Showe.
Possibly even greater than his Big Ten showing was his outing against Indiana on the Senior Day season-finale. Cox scored 334.28 points to place first off the tower and was second off the 3-meter with a personal best of 349.21 points, helping the Boilermakers beat their in-state rivals for the first time since 2001.
Cox qualified for his first NCAA meet after taking second off the 3-meter at Zones with 663.75 points.