“We’re so far ahead of anywhere we were last year, and it’s so noticeable in training,” said Kyle Owens, junior in biomedical sciences.
Auburn’s first opportunity to showcase its progress is Friday against LSU in Baton Rouge.
“We don’t know how we’re going to perform, but we’re training so hard, the camaraderie on the team is so good, and we’re going into the season in a really good position,” Owens said.
Brett Hawke is entering his third season as coach after leading teams to back-to-back sixth-place finishes at the NCAA tournament.
Karl Krug, senior in business, said that has caused the team to train differently heading into this season.
“We’re more focused on individual events, like what we need to do to get everything done,” Krug said. “I wouldn’t call it necessarily harder, but I’d call it smarter.
“We experimented with some things last year, so we know what is going to work and what isn’t, so that’s what we’ve been doing, and it’s working out real well.”
Owens said the pressure and intensity has been increased from last season.
“I think that’s something we really lacked, especially in the upper group last year,” Owens said. “Everyone is rallying around each other in practice, pushing each other harder than we’ve ever had happen.”
LSU enters the season after finishing fifth in the conference last year.
“I know enough to know they’re competitive in a few events,” Hawke said. “They don’t have a really well-rounded team, but they have strengths in certain areas. It’s going to be tough to win every event.”
Krug said LSU’s butterfly swimmers rank No. 16 in the world.
“They’ve got a couple of fast guys,” Krug said. “They’re a good swim team. Anyone can swim fast on any given day, so you never know what to expect. You always have to bring 100 percent.”
With the hard work already underway, Hawke isn’t hesitant to express the team’s goals this year.
“The ultimate season goal is always to win, but anywhere in the top 10 should be the goal,” Hawke said. “So, realistically, we’re just trying to be our best every day, and hopefully at the end of the day that’s good enough to challenge.”
In order to excel throughout the season, Hawke said he’s looking for upperclassmen like Krug to have a good year.
“You always expect your seniors to come through,” Hawke said. “He’s a sprinter. He’s a leader in that area.”
Hawke also said senior Max Murphy is another swimmer to keep an eye on at the SEC and NCAA level.
Hawke is confident that hard work and determination from Krug and Murphy can lead the team to its seventh national championship since 2003.
“Get ready to see some fast swimming from us,” Krug said.