COLUMBIA, MO. – The University of Arkansas swimming and diving team goes on the road to Columbia, Mo., Saturday facing No. 18 Missouri and 20th ranked (Division I Mid-Major) Missouri State at 1:00 p.m.
The Lady Razorbacks are off to a 4-2 start, losing to two of the top-ranked teams in the nation – No. 1 Georgia and No. 7 Florida. They have not had an easy schedule by any means, competing against seven top-25 teams so far this season. Their schedule gets no easier taking on two ranked opponents this weekend, Southeastern Conference foe Vanderbilt next weekend and No. 2 Auburn and No. 20 Florida State on Feb. 9.
“We want to be a top 25 team,” said head coach Jeff Poppell. “The only way that is going to happen is being able to compete against those teams.”
Arkansas uses Saturday’s meet and the remainder of its dual-meet competitions to get ready for the SEC Championships which take place in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Feb. 20-23.
“We’re trying to prepare for SECs,” said Poppell. “If we’re truly trying to prepare our athletes for competition at that level, we need to compete against a much higher standard of competition. It’s tough, there’s no doubt. But it gets everyone used to and in the mindset of the level that we need to be comfortable competing against. If we’re just competing against teams that are inferior, it gives our athletes a false sense of accomplishment and is not a reality of what we’re going to see (at SECs).”
Freshman Katie Kastes leads the Lady’Backs swimmers with eight wins going into Saturday’s meet. She is the only Lady’Back with an NCAA automatic qualifying time and currently holds school records in the 100 and 200 butterflies and the 400 individual medley.
Junior Madison Palmer directs the divers with six first-place finishes. She earned SEC Diver of the Week honors twice and qualified for the NCAA Zone Diving meet in the one- and three-meter springboards in her first meet of the season.
The 18th ranked Tigers come into the weekend having not competed in almost two months. Mizzou faced three top-25 teams this season, defeating No. 22 Indiana and No. 23 Virginia Tech, but falling to No. 6 Texas A&M. Arkansas leads the all-time series with the Tigers 11-6, while Missouri won the last meeting in 2003, 81-59.
The Bears are No. 20 in mid-major rankings and had almost a month off from competition. Missouri and Missouri State faced each other in mid-October with Mizzou coming out on top 382.5-339.5. Arkansas has not lost against the Bears in the history of the program (6-0), winning the last meet in 2007, 185-115.
“We have a tough challenge this weekend versus Missouri and Missouri State,” Poppell said. “It should be a great meet between three strong teams.”
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