Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By SAM STYCH
INDIANAPOLIS — Ten swimmers from the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team, including eight medalists, are expected to compete at this weekend’s inaugural USA College Challenge in Indianapolis.
The elite event also features top swimmers from the Big Ten Conference, including Iowa senior Emma Sougstad, junior Jerzy Twarowski, sophomore Kenneth Mende, and freshman Hannah Burvill.
The USA College Challenge, a two-day, short-course yards dual meet, will feature members of the USA Swimming National Team squaring off against stars from the Big Ten Conference on Nov. 12-13 at the Indiana University Natatorium on the campus of IUPUI in Indianapolis.
“We’re excited for our swimmers to help represent the Big Ten Conference in a dynamic event against the U.S. National Team,” said UI head coach Marc Long. “It’s an exciting opportunity for them to compete as a Big Ten team, side-by-side with our peers.”
Among the 2016 Olympians expected to swim in Indianapolis are medalists Lilly King, Cody Miller, Blake Pieroni, Cierra Runge, Tom Shields, Leah Smith, Amanda Weir, and Kelsi Worrell.
For Sougstad, arguably one of the most decorated swimmers in Iowa’s recent history, this weekend’s USA College Challenge gives her a chance to redeem herself.
“I am so humbled and honored to be able to participate in this event,” said Sougstad, who is slated to compete in five events. “I was unable to compete at the 2016 Olympic Trials due to shoulder surgery and it was one of the hardest experiences to watch my empty lane. I will never forget that feeling and am grateful for another opportunity to compete against the best of the best.”
As much as athletes aim to treat elite events like any other, Mende knows that isn’t the case with the USA College Challenge.
“It is different than a regular meet,” said Mende, who is expected to compete in the 100 back and 200 IM. “It is a great opportunity to show what we are working toward at the end of the season. It is a great opportunity for us to compete on an incredibly high level against some of the fastest swimmers in the world. I am honored to be participating in this event and I will make sure to represent the University of Iowa in the best way possible.”
As for Burvill, the youngest of the four Hawkeyes, this opportunity presents itself as a learning experience.
“I hope I can learn how to better compete against some of the fastest swimmers in the country,” said Burvill, a native of Pyrford, Great Britain. “I need to learn to relax and enjoy the event, rather than being overly nervous.”
Halfway into her freshman campaign, Burvill leads the team in the 100, 200, and 500 freestyle. Her times in the 100 (50.59) and 200 (1:49.73) rank ninth at Iowa all-time. She is expected to compete in the 100 free and as a member of the 400 and 800-free relays.
Twarowski, a two-time NCAA qualifier, will compete in the 400-medley relay and 100 and 200 fly. The Poland native is the UI school record holder in all three events.
Saturday’s opening session begins at 3:30 p.m. (CT), while Sunday’s session starts at 10:30 a.m. Both sessions of the two-day meet will be televised live on the Big Ten Network and will also stream live online at USASwimming.org and btn.com.