Emmabeth Jensen
Rick Yeatts

New-Look Swim & Dive Team Takes On SMU, Houston

DENTON – The North Texas swimming & diving team continues dual-meet action with a double-dual event against SMU and Houston at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Robson & Lindley Aquatic Center in Dallas.

The Mean Green opened the season with a 207-80 road win over Little Rock on Oct. 6. Junior Jowita Sienczyk earned Conference USA Swimmer of the Week honors after posting four individual and relay victories against the Trojans.

Sienczyk is one of just nine upperclassmen on the 24-member roster, which also features 12 newcomers. Coming into the fall, head coach Brittany Roth was charged with the unique task of merging her largest recruiting class to date with as many returners.

"They're competitive and tough as nails," Roth said. "They came in wanting to prove something. Now that they've got that first meet out of the way and shaken off some jitters, we can move forward. I'm excited to see them progress and watch their transformations this season."

The roster combines a blend of preparatory backgrounds with some who swam in the U.S. high school system, which is similar in how performances drives team outcome, and some who swam only club, which is fixated on hitting certain times.

"In college, it sort of melds the two together," Roth said. "You're trying to race as fast as you can to get certain times, but it's also all about points. That's something we've talked about early in the season. These races are for position and points, and the times will come."

While there's a place in the sport for the motivation it takes to hit those cut times or qualify for meets in the club environment, it requires a change of mentality to find success at the college level.

"I think it takes away from why you're racing in the first place," Roth said. "When you dive in, you're just trying to be the first person to touch the wall. It could be a world record or the slowest time of your life. We have to see times as a byproduct, as opposed to something we fixate on. It's about the process."

The program's unconventional training style won't do any favors to some of the time-motivated newcomers but, while it will be hard on them early on, Roth has their best interests in mind long-term.

"They're going to hit some times that they'll turn their head at," Roth said, "but I'm looking at the long game. Not only at the end of this year, but at the end of their career. We have to take time while they're freshman to set the standard and implement the system."

With half the team being newcomers, a number of crucial seniors graduated and five student-athletes who were part of program-record performances gone, there are a lot of spots up for grabs.

"They see that they can be a part of history," Roth said. "That keeps them hungry and excited. It makes our returners work even harder, because they know their spot isn't safe either."

Following graduation and knowing many new faces were on their way, the group of 12 returners decided to band together to recalibrate the values and expectations of the program, starting with their chemistry.

"It's not seniors and then everyone else," Roth said. "It's not any group of people and everybody else. They're all in it together, and the returners are teaching the newcomers by example how to be team players. They're more like mentors and they're going to leave a longer-lasting legacy than they even realize."

Fans can watch the action live on PonyUp TV and live results will be available on SMUMustangs.com.
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