Nov. 15, 2007
VIDEO: Purdue Invitational Preview
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Boilermakers' men's and women's swimming and diving seasons are only a month old but it's time for mid-term examinations this weekend as the Old Gold and Black play host to the Purdue Invitational.
This three-day meet, which has been a staple on the Boilermakers' schedule since 2003, runs through six sessions (three prelims, three finals) starting Friday morning at 10 a.m. at the Boilermaker Aquatic Center.
This year's field includes teams from Florida, Louisville, Missouri, Missouri State and Southern Illinois. Admission to all six sessions is free.
The idea behind the Purdue Invitational is to place the student-athletes in a Big Ten or NCAA Championship environment four to five months ahead of schedule, and gauge their performances in and out of the water.
"With six co-ed teams coming in, there are some teams that we usually don't get to go against, so our guys will get a chance to show them what we're all about," said men's head coach Dan Ross. "What's really important is the Big Ten format, a three-day meet. Here you will have three-straight days of prelims in the morning and then finals at night. It's mentally exhausting to have to do that. But I really expect this to be the fastest meet of the year for us."
For women's coach Cathy Wright-Eger, the invitational will produce plenty of challenging opportunities for the freshmen on her roster.
"I kind of compare this meet to a mid-term," said Wright-Eger. "We're going to know where we stand, what we're good at and what we need to improve on, especially the twelve newcomers on the team. They're going to get a chance to see what the Big Ten Championships are going to be like."
While there is still a lot of swimming and diving left after this weekend, the Purdue Invitational marks the end of the swimmers' fall competition schedule. The divers compete once more in 2007, heading to Ohio State for a three-day invitational in late November and early December.
Both Purdue clubs started well this season, easily winning the Indiana Intercollegiates, but since then they've experienced mixed results through two weekends of dual meets. The men remain unbeaten at 4-0 and claim a No. 14 national ranking, while the women are 1-4.
Despite the differences in records, both head coaches are increasingly positive with each passing day.
"I think that we're pretty much where we thought we'd be with 12 new people," said Wright-Eger. "We've got a lot of improving and a lot of growing to do. But every meet they are learning a lot of basic things about how to swim fast. Every day we are a little bit better. It's really fun to come to the pool because they want to learn and they want to get faster."
"We're 4-0 in dual meets and we're pleasantly surprised by that," added Ross. "Our guys have performed up to and exceeded expectations up to this point both in the swimming pool and on the diving side. I really believe by second semester, we should really be a force in the Big Ten."
In addition to the aqua battles taking place on deck, spectators representing all six participating schools will be engaged in a weekend competition of their own - Penny Wars.
Dollar bills and coins of all denominations are going to be collected throughout the first five sessions. Boilermaker fans are encouraged to throw their pennies in Purdue's jar and all of their silver coins and dollar bills into any or all of the other schools' jars.
All donations support Purdue Athletics' year-long cancer benefit.
Pennies earn a school points and any other coins or dollar bills take points away. The school with the highest penny point total after Sunday morning's preliminary session will be rewarded with free pizza on Sunday night.
"It's been fun seeing some stuff on the national websites about us and the Penny Wars," said Ross. "We're very flattered and honored to be involved. Anytime you can help raise awareness of cancer, it's good. And we're very, very pleased to be able to be a part of the event. We're happy that we were chosen to help fight for such a good cause."
Prelim sessions begin at 10 a.m. on all three days. Friday and Saturday's finals kick off at 6 p.m., while Sunday's finals start at 4 p.m.