Nick Soedel shows Ute pride, the theme for todays meet
Oct. 6, 2012
SALT LAKE CITY - Spirits were high as past and present Utes came together in a friendly inner-squad competition. The current Utah roster was split into two teams, red and white, while Utah alumni sported black caps.
Over 100 alumni arrived both to cheer on the athletes, and to swim in a Ute cap once again. Ultimately the focus of the meet was on Ute pride, rather than winners and losers.
"This meet did two things for us," said Utah head coach Greg Winslow. "One, it was a great kick off of Team Week, a team building week we do every fall break. Two, it brought out our competitiveness as we get into the competition season. Splitting the team into two was a good gauge of where we are at competitively and served as a barometer for us going into next week.
"The bigger reason behind this meet was to bring forward the great history of the Utah Swimming and Diving program. We wanted to reach out and thank alumni for their help and support, especially when we're out on the road facing the Pac-12. We had over 100 alumni here, including one who was part of the 1949 Conference Championship team, and old record holders. It was a honor to share what being a Ute meant to them."
As for the Utah alumni, being here meant just as much.
"Just being here means a lot," said former Ute Pat Hays. "I have come back for a couple alumni meets and this was the best by far. It's great seeing the alumni and the fan support. Seeing the young guys and seeing the old guys and the bridge in between is wonderful. Back when I was swimming, we were in the WAC, we were good, but I think being in the Pac-12 is a few steps up from that. To me it's really exciting. We've been waiting for this for a long time. I look forward to watching this team."
Standing as the oldest alumni to compete today, class of 1967's Mike Garibaldi was thrilled for the opportunity to get in the water.
"The Utes have changed tremendously, the whole campus has changed. There are women in swimming now; we didn't have that. There are a lot of things that are growing and it's just wonderful to see that. It's an honor to come back. I left here in 1970 and I finished swimming in 1967. I think I'm only guy that swam today that's from that era so I feel good about that. It's fun to meet all the younger people and watch them develop. Now they're in the Pac-12, so they've got tremendous competition. That is going to be fun to watch," Garibaldi said.
The current Utes had just as much fun today as they were matched up against, former Olympians, all-Americans and Utah record holders.
"It's pretty exciting to compete against all the alumni," said Utah freshman Brandon Risley. "I think it was in my 50 fly when I got up, I saw this one guy who looked like a pretty good flyer. I was just hoping I wasn't going to lose to him. It's cool swimming against the alumni, but it's also a little bit intimidating seeing the fast guys that have been here for years. But, it was a lot of fun and defiantly a great experience."
The Utes have been training for weeks and are ready to go as their first Pac-12 meets of the season fast approach.
"This meet was a good reminder to the athletes that competition season is right on top of us," said Winslow. "We've been training hard for so long. It was good to shake the rust off today."
Utah junior Nicole Ligeza chimed in with her thoughts facing the week ahead.
"I think today really prepares us for the season, not only mentally but physically; knowing when to warm up, getting up and cheering for your teammates, getting after one another and getting after races," said Ligeza.
Utah will travel to southern California next week. The team heads to US Santa Barbara on Friday as both teams will face the Gauchos at 1 p.m. PT, while the women's squad will see Oregon State and UCLA at the same time. Saturday, the Utes will compete at USC at 12 p.m. PT.