Paper airplanes zigged and zagged around the pool at IM Sports-West on Monday afternoon as the MSU men’s swimming and diving team prepared to travel to Bloomington, Ind., for the Big Ten Championships beginning today.
“The day before we leave, we do an airplane toss,” head coach Matt Gianiodis said. “One for distance and one for time. They’ve done it every year since I’ve been here, and I know it started long before that.”
He said he has no idea how or when it started, but the team looks forward to it all year.
In preparation for the Big Ten Championships, Gianiodis said they’re looking to continue the good string of performances they’ve had throughout the year.
“We’ve had a good season from a performance standpoint,” he said. “The kids have trained really well all season long. We have some holes in our lineup, and that hurts us sometimes in dual meets, so hopefully we’ll be able to score some points in a championship format.”
Gianiodis said a season ago, a pair of swimmers essentially quit the team, leaving a gaping hole in the team’s distance events.
He said they don’t have anybody on the team that’s used to the longer races, and they’re trying to focus on the primary events at the Big Ten Championships.
“We have had kids swim (distance events) in the dual meets this year,” Gianiodis said. “By and large, for us, we’re just going to have people swim their best events and see how fast they can go.”
Senior Jacob Jarzen has the fastest time in the 100-meter freestyle, 100-meter backstroke, 100-meter fly, 200-meter back and 200-meter individual medley this season, and competed in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
He said he has high hopes going into the high-pressure environment.
“I want to get top three in all three of my individual swims,” Jarzen said. “And a first place in the 100(-meter) fly would be nice.”
Jarzen qualified for the NCAA Championships the last three years, and hopes to go for a fourth-straight year.
Even with the holes in the team, he said the group as a whole wants to get a relay to the NCAA Championships near the end of March.
“Our goals as a team will be placing well on relays,” he said. “If the seniors and juniors really step up, I think our team should do well.”
At the Big Ten Championships last season, the team finished 10th, a mark Williams said he and the team want to improve.
“Team expectations overall would have to be just moving up a couple places,” Williams said. “We have the capability of doing it. Our freshman class is pretty strong this year, and as a team we’ve bonded together, and that will help us achieve the goals we’re looking for.”
In the last meet of the season against Michigan, Williams had an impressive day, winning the 200-meter butterfly with a time of 1:49.51, and finishing second in the 100-meter butterfly, completing in a time of 48.81 seconds.
For Williams, he expects the intensity of the meet to be at a season high, and said he can’t wait to get in the pool.
“I’ve never been a part of anything like that since I’ve come to Michigan State,” he said. “The crowd’s into it, everyone’s cheering, (and) the swimming is ungodly fast. It’s definitely something fun to be a part of.”