Column: Upcoming Mizzou Invite is huge

This is a big one.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week, the swim and dive team will host the Mizzou Invite, a swim meet that will match us against Drury, Florida International, Illinois, Missouri S&T, New Mexico, UNLV and West Virginia.

If you’ve been reading my column, you’ve heard about Mizzou Invite already. That’s because it is our most important meet of the season, outside of the Southeastern Conference and NCAA championships.

Mizzou Invite is our first opportunity to truly see what we are capable of this season. We have been gradually easing up in training for about two weeks now, and we will all be shaved down and suited up in the fastest swimsuits allowed for the meet. (An interesting aspect of swimming: Because competition suits are expensive and wear out so quickly, we only use them for big meets.)

We place such an emphasis on Mizzou Invite because swimming quickly this week will allow swimmers and relays to qualify for the NCAA championship.

To qualify, a swimmer must either swim faster than a pre-established “A” cut, which will qualify them automatically, or they must be among the fastest 30 or so in the event nationally. However, the exact times vary every year and will not be announced until a couple of weeks prior to the meet, so at this point in the season, it is hard to predict whether or not someone will qualify unless they have an “A” cut or are very close to it.

Making the NCAAs early on in the season is advantageous because it eliminates the pressure of trying to qualify at the SEC championships or a “last chance” meet. Swimmers do not have to taper — cut down on training in order to rest — fully and try to swim their best race at one of these meets, and then try to turn around and do it again for NCAAs a few weeks later.

Like the championship meets at the end of the season, Mizzou Invite is a three-day meet with two sessions each day: prelims in the morning and finals at night. Each swimmer is allowed to swim three events during the course of the meet — usually one each day — although it is possible to swim an event for exhibition by just participating in prelims.

Both times swam in prelims and finals can count to qualify for NCAAs, but only finals count toward points for the meet standings.

From a swimmer’s perspective, it is nice to have two opportunities to swim an event at big meets. That way, you can learn from the morning swim and make adjustments for finals.

At the same time, however, the six-session meet can be exhausting. After a couple weeks of easier workouts, the process of warming up, swimming fast and warming down six times in three days can be a bit of a shock to the system. That is where all the training we did in the three months leading up to taper comes in.

Mizzou Invite will provide us our first good idea of where this year’s team is in relation to the rest of the country. Ideally, we want to not only win the meet but also have all five of our relays, on both the men’s and women’s side, get their “A” cuts. We also want to come as close as possible to filling our 18-member roster for NCAAs for both genders by having that many people either get their “A” cuts or swim a time very close to it.

Put simply, a successful Mizzou Invite will set us up to achieve our goal for the season of placing in the top 10 at NCAAs, for both men and women. It will also be the fastest meet hosted at MU this season, so come out and watch a session.

We won’t disappoint.

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