After winning its third consecutive Mid-American Conference championship, the Eastern Michigan men’s swimming and diving team will have to get used to some changes.
The 2009-10 season will see three additions to the conference as Evansville (Ind.), Missouri State and Southern Illinois have joined the MAC to compete on the men’s side through the 2015 season. Each will compete against the existing conference members of Buffalo, Miami (Ohio), Ball State and EMU.
The new members made the leap from the Sun Belt Conference last year. The Sun Belt and MAC held a joint-championship last season, which saw Missouri State place second overall and 126 points ahead of the Eagles.
Peter Linn has seen many teams come and go in the MAC as he enters his 22nd season as EMU coach and said there will be an adjustment period for the conference over the next few seasons.
“We’ve seen them and competed against them,” Linn said. “I always thought Southern Illinois was similar to us. From a swimming standpoint, they’ve been similar to us over the years as far as the kinds of athletes they recruit.”
A few other changes, like scoring systems and the number of athletes allowed to compete in conference meets, will be introduced to the MAC. Linn said depending on which of the three or four models the coaches decide on later this month probably will give certain teams advantages over others.
Senior captain Scott Murphy said he is very excited with the additions the MAC has made because it solidifies the conference and gives him more competition in breaststroke events.
“It brings back the MAC, which is extremely cool,” Murphy said. “All seven teams will be competing for the MAC now, and it will be tough. We won’t be able to roll through things like in years past.”
The season starts in early October when Eastern is tentatively scheduled to compete at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, but the training season starts much before then. What makes the team’s training preseason different this year is the number of upperclassmen is much smaller than in years past.
With the team’s top two anchors, Derick Roe and Adam Wohl, gone to graduation, Linn admitted he’ll have to rely mostly on freshmen not only to win but also to fill out relay teams.
“We had almost every athlete in each event graduate,” Linn said. “We feel that we have a good group of freshmen coming in but you hate to rely on freshmen because they have to adjust to so many things and we don’t want to put too much pressure on them.
“So we’re going to have to have some upperclassmen step up as leaders. And we’ve got some guys coming back, just don’t have the numbers.”
For Murphy, he knew he’d have to raise his stakes as a guide to the incoming freshmen both in and out of the pool, which is why he stayed in Ypsilanti for the summer instead of going home to Houston. While near school, he has been working out with a few teammates who wanted to take a short trip to Fuller Pool in Ann Arbor while EMU’s Jones Natatorium was drained.
While some have started off-season training on their own, Thursday marks the start of team practices. And because the season is still a month away, Linn has to sift through his athletes and figure out who goes where. One spot Linn thought he had nailed down was in the 1-meter dive. But a knee injury to Mitch Kellerman, mixed with yet more talented freshmen, still have things up in the air.