Last lap for WSU swim

n professional and collegiate sports, the opportunity for athletes to compete for a championship is the greatest spectacle. For Cougar swimming, the women’s team will aim to seize the opportunity when it competes in the Pac-12 Swimming Championships, Feb. 25-28 in Federal Way.

The Cougars (6-3, 3-3 Pac-12) enter the conference championships with momentum. The team earned its best dual-meet record since 2012, and won six-straight meets for the first time since 2008.

The team will try to improve last season’s Pac-12 Championships finish, in which it finished eighth of nine schools. The Cougars finished the regular season in seventh place in the conference, ahead of Utah and Oregon State.

Head Coach Tom Jager said the team is a more complete group than last season’s heading into postseason competition.

“We have great chemistry and a great leadership group this season,” Jager said. “We’re not afraid of everybody and we always get after it every chance we get.”

The Cougars made history against Pac-12 competition this season, earning three conference victories for the first time since 2001. The team also finished the season with a dual-meet record above .500 for the first time since 2010.

Senior Ali Mand said the team will enter the championship meet with the same amount of intensity they’ve shown all season long.

“We always push to keep doing what we’re doing,” Mand said. “We’re ready to compete at the next level, race how we know how to race and have fun at the same time.”

Junior Presley Wetterstrom said the team’s success this season gives the program confidence heading into the future.

“I’m excited to see what we can do in the future,” Wetterstrom said. “We have a lot more focus on details and the program overall is close to doing something special.”

The team has made an impact on a national level – it owns six times in the USA swimming national top-100 rankings. Wetterstrom leads the team with the 61st-fastest time in the country in the 200-meter breaststroke.

The No. 1 ranked California Golden Bears enter the conference championships as the Pac-12 regular season champions. The defending Pac-12 champions will be going for their fourth conference championship program history.

The Golden Bears (8-1, 7-0 Pac-12) feature some of the top swimmers in the world, including sophomore Missy Franklin. Franklin won the national title in the 200-meter freestyle last season, and won four gold medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The Cougars will face stiff competition in arguably the toughest conference championship in the country. The Pac-12 Championships will feature the No. 1 Golden Bears, No. 3 Stanford Cardinal, No. 11 Arizona Wildcats, No. 12 USC Trojans, and No. 16 UCLA Bruins.

The championship meet will also feature unranked Arizona State, Oregon State and Utah. The Cougars earned victories against all three teams during the regular season.

The Pac-12 Swimming Championships begin at 6 p.m. tonight and at 11 a.m. the next three days at the Weyerhauser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.