Cats hoping rest period quickens times at SEC Championships

The swimming and diving team has a chance to put a stamp this week on one of its best seasons in recent history at the Southeastern Conference Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The championships, which start today and last through Saturday, are hosted by the University of Alabama.

The Cats have been preparing for this week all season. In the past month, head coach Gary Conelly has been monitoring the team’s taper — the rest period in between meets and the SEC Championships — to ensure the swimmers are at full strength.

Conelly has reduced the number of laps and intensity the swimmers normally swim in practice in hopes of getting an extra burst of energy for this week.

“(Tapering) gives their body a chance to recover,” Conelly said. “It almost superloads them. Their body is used to a certain amount of energy, and then all of a sudden, they’re not burning it, and the body still thinks it has to make all this fuel for the muscles, so it’s an overload.”

The extra energy allows the swimmers to handle greater levels of stress in the water, Conelly said.

Senior swimmer Heather Bradford has experienced the benefits of tapering in her four years at UK.

“All swimmers do it before big meets,” she said. “Our dual meet times don’t even compare to the meets where we taper. Taper times are faster.”

Because men have a larger muscles mass, they need more time to rest than women, Conelly said. The men stopped lifting weights a week earlier than the women did, he said, and the women have swam a thousand more yards than the men since their last meets.

The team is hoping the extra rest will result in a successful week in Tuscaloosa.

The Cats’ best chance at an individual SEC title comes from senior swimmer Jenny Bradford. After placing second last year by just .32 seconds in the 50-meter freestyle, she comes into this year’s meet seeded first in the event.

“The last two years I’ve been seeded second, so I just feel like it’s my year for the 50,” she said. “I’m going into the meet with a chip on my shoulder thinking about the last two years and not winning. It’s my year.”

Jenny Bradford’s sister, Heather, placed second last year in the 100-butterfly, missing first by 1.27 seconds to Christine Magnuson of Tennessee.

“I want to win 100-butterfly,” Heather Bradford said. “I feel a little more confident. Usually I die in the last lap, but I swam a lot more fly this year so I should be able to finish my race harder now. The girl who won last year is back again, so it’s going be hard.”

The Cats boast several other threats in the pool as well, Conelly said.

Conelly believes senior diver Kari Retrum and freshman diver Jessica Snowden have an excellent chance to finish in the top eight in their respective events.

And while Conelly didn’t expect the success the men have had this season, he expects them to compete for a few SEC titles.

“We’ve got Will Vietti, and Kristian Outinen, both seniors, both breaststrokers, both have qualified to go to NCAAs,” Conelly said. “Then you’ve got Grant Nelson, the third senior, who’s swimming really good butterfly right now.”

Even with the Cats strong individual competition, they’ll have their hands full with some of the deepest and most talented teams in the country.

“Our goal is to get in the top four somehow,” Conelly said. “It’ll be very competitive.”