It's a fairly safe thing to say that the Dinos are favourites to repeat as Canada West champions in swimming this weekend at the University of Lethbridge, for both the men's and women's sides. Their top rival, the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, have 14 new swimmers on their roster and a new coach and the Dinos have lost few from the teams that finished first (the ladies) and second (the men) overall in the country. However, this doesn't mean the Dinos are expecting to swim past the other schools with ease.
"I don't think it'll be a giveaway, by any means, I think we'll have to fight for it," says second-year Jason Block.
That being said, they're balancing those expectations with a healthy dose of confidence.
"We showed everyone last year how well we came together," says fifth-year Katy Murdoch. "We've been building this team since my first year in university, so for five years now. I know we have the best team in Canada right now, so it's really exciting to go into it [the Canada West meet]."
It's a tough balance for a top squad to reach: humble confidence; knowing you're the best if you're at your best without discounting your opponent. After last year's close loss to the Thunderbirds at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships, the men's side knows what happens when they land too far on the side of swagger.
"Going into CIS, I think we weren't expecting the fight other teams were going to put up," says Block. "I think everybody second-year above knows that and knowing that, yes, just because you have a lot of talent doesn't mean you're always going to come up on top."
The conversation for this year's Dinos swim teams has focused on whether they will achieve as expected and top both the conference and the country. Coming in as favourites is a marked shift in the framework for the Dinos season. For 10 years, the T-Birds won the men's national title before the Dinos dethroned them in 2008 and for 11 years, the T-Birds won the women's national title until the Dinos took the title last year, after finishing second for eight years. With all the fresh faces on the T-Birds side, this year is another in transition for the powerhouse school and Murdoch couldn't be happier about the progress she's seen in her five years as a Dino.
"We have the confidence now; we didn't when I started," she says. "The atmosphere's completely changed. It's really cool because we can be champions now. . . . This is great. I'm sad that it's my last year."