Saturday's double-dual will be the first competition of any kind for the Aggie men's team this fall, while a portion of the women's squad saw action last weekend in a team victory at the ASA Open Water Collegiate National Championships at Lake Travis.
"Racing against two quality teams like South Carolina and North Carolina is a great way to get the season started," Aggie men's coach Jay Holmes said. "This is why swimmers and divers put in the work and preparation that they do. We're ready to compete against someone other than our own team, and I know that South Carolina and North Carolina are too. We're excited about the challenge and I think it will be a great college swimming and diving meet for the fans."
Added A&M women's head coach Steve Bultman, "There will be some very good competition at this meet, and I'm excited to see that. A double-dual is always fun because with three teams everybody is going to have someone to race. It's been a while since we've raced and so it will be good to get back in that situation. We need to race someone else and it's exciting to get that going."
Not only is it the Aggies' first meet of the season, it's also both programs' first-ever conference dual meet since Texas A&M joined the Southeastern Conference earlier this year.
"It's definitely exciting to be in the SEC; that's where I got started so it's fun to be back," said Bultman, who graduated from LSU and coached at both LSU and Georgia. "Obviously we'll be racing some new people, and in many cases, some really fast people but it's still just racing. That's the name of the game, and it's fun to do that. We're looking forward to the challenge."
Both Texas A&M squads enter 2012-13 with experienced squads that placed high at last year's NCAA Championships. The A&M women's team finished in the top 10 nationally for the sixth straight season with a No. 6 finish at the NCAA Championships, while the men's squad finished in the top 25 at nationals for the 17th straight year with a No. 13 finish.
The women's squad returns 21 letterwinners from 2011-12, including eight that saw action at the 2012 NCAA Championships. Among those are a pair of Olympic Games finalists in junior Breeja Larson and Cammile Adams. Larson placed sixth in the 100-meter breaststroke and earned a gold medal as part of Team USA's 400 medley relay, and Adams took fifth in the 200-meter butterfly to record A&M's highest individual swimming finish at the Olympics ever. Veterans of last year's NCAA team in addition to Larson and Adams are seniors Maureen McLaine, Tess Simpson and Rebecca St. Germain, and juniors Erica Dittmer, Caroline McElhany and Paige Miller. Also rejoining A&M's active roster are redshirt sophomores Lili Ibanez and Sarah Henry, who both missed last year's collegiate season due to injury but were back to form last summer. Ibanez represented Mexico in the London Olympics, while Henry earned a spot on the U.S. squad at the 2013 World University Games with five top eight finishes, including a win in the 200 IM, at the U.S. Open Championships.
The men's team returns 24 lettermen, while losing just five letterwinners from the 2011-12 squad. Among the returnees are six swimmers or divers that earned All-America status at the 2012 NCAA Championships. Leading the way is senior John Dalton, who joined former Big 12 Swimmer of the Year Matt Rose as the only Aggies to earn six All-America certificates at one national meet. Other 2012 All-Americans returning are juniors Hayden Jones, John Wagner, Paul-Marc Schweitzer, Kyle Troskot and sophomore Luke Shaw. Boosting the Aggies in 2012-13 will be the healthy return of junior Omar Enriquez, who owns school records in the 500-, 1,000-, and 1,650-yard freestyles. Other individual school record holders returning this season are Dalton (50 free) and junior Simon Frank (200- and 400-yard IM). Among the relay school records, three of four legs return for both the 400 free relay (Dalton, junior Henrik Lindau and Troskot) and the 800 free relay (Schweitzer, Dalton and Wagner).