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Alabama heads to Iowa for NCAAs

Layton Dudley

The men's swim team is sending six individuals and four relay swimmers to the 2015 NCAA championships on Thursday. CW | Layton Dudley

Tyler Waldrep

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The Alabama men’s swimming and diving team is headed to the NCAA championships with the belief that it can exceed what is expected.

Sophomore Kristian Gkolomeev, the reigning NCAA 50 freestyle champion, will be competing to defend his title. He recently set a school record time of 18.64 when he won the 50 freestyle at this year’s SEC championship.

“It was a great performance [winning the 50 at the SEC Championship],” he said. “Actually I did not expect to go that fast.”

The team is sending six individuals along with four relay swimmers to Iowa City, Iowa, to compete in the 2015 NCAA championships beginning on Thursday.

Sophomore Connor Oslin, winner of the 100 backstroke at the SEC Championship, said he is looking forward to competing at the NCAAs. He said the team wants to finish in the Top 10.

“We work hard for this all year,” he said. “It’s great to know that everyone on this team has bought in [and] that we are going to be a powerhouse school.”

Last year the men’s team finished ranked 12th despite being unranked the previous year. Oslin said last year his trip to compete in nationals was exciting, but this year he expects more from himself. He said he wants to be a serious contender and not someone who is just glad to be there.

Coach Dennis Pursley said the team seems to thrive in the spotlight. He said he is confident the team can finish in the Top 10 but everyone needs to execute properly.

“Both individually and collectively they are just real strong competitors,” he said. “They don’t seem to feel the pressure [in big moments] that you might expect.”

Pursley said the team started preparing for nationals from the very beginning. He said the team wants to establish a culture of champions, but for that to happen the team needs to show the country that last year’s success was not an anomaly.

“You are measured by what you do in the NCAA championship,” he said. “If you don’t do it in the NCAA championship then you can’t claim those bragging rights.”

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Alabama heads to Iowa for NCAAs