More than five years ago, Marc Long dreamed about the possibility of hosting an event like the one in Iowa City this week.
Long, the Iowa men's and women's swimming coach, helped plan a new pool for his program, a pool that was part of a state-of-the-art Campus Recreation and Wellness Center on the University of Iowa campus and could one day host major competitions.
The CRWC opened in the summer of 2010, housing the men's and women's teams. Now it is hosting major events, including the final meet of the college season.
The CRWC hosts the NCAA men's swimming and diving championships Thursday through Saturday. Preliminary sessions begin at 11 a.m. each day, and finals begin at 7 p.m.
"We talked a lot about having this meet," Long said. "Now we're here. It's really a dream to have it."
Both Iowa teams previously trained at the Field House pool on the west side of campus. The pool is still there, but now — as Long even describes — is a relic. The Field House pool didn't have regulation 50-meter lanes, but rather 50-yard lanes.
The CRWC includes a 50-meter competition pool, a diving wall, locker rooms, training rooms and a sizable fan attendance area.
Long predicts that visiting schools will not only be impressed with the facility, but also the surrounding area. The opportunity to host an NCAA meet is rare.
"I think for the community, rec services, athletics, and the state of Iowa, this is a really cool thing to have," Long said. "It's going to break down some walls in perception of our state."
Four Iowa swimmers and one diver qualified for the NCAA meet.
Senior Grant Betulius, junior Roman Trussov, sophomore Jackson Halsmer and freshman Jerzy Twarowski will compete in the 200 and 400 medley relays. Betulius also will compete in the 100 and 200 backstroke, while Trussov will be in the 100 and 200 breaststroke. Junior Addison Boschult qualified in diving.
"It's exciting for my last meet as a Hawkeye," Betulius said. "Most of my teammates are going to be up in the stands, three guys will be on deck, but it's going to be really cool to end my college career at this pool."
Halsmer understands the implications of hosting a meet of this scale.
The fact that it will be about as close to a home meet as possible for the Hawkeyes helps, as well.
"I'm really excited for it," Halsmer said. "It's been cool to see the pool get all dressed up with new landlines, new flags. I think it's huge for not only us as a team, but for recruiting.
"We practice here every day, so we don't have to worry about coming in and getting used to the walls or the blocks. We know where everything is."
Iowa's five competitors are only a small part of the 270 total athletes who will be in Iowa City this weekend, but the Hawkeyes have a chance to showcase their facility and program at a national level.
And don't count out what might happen in the water.
"It's a really fast meet," Betulius said. "Just to be able to qualify is an achievement. If we could finish in the top eight, that would be a huge accomplishment. It will be really tough, but I think that we're capable of it. We have to go out and swim the way we can."
Reach Matt Cozzi at email@example.com or 319-887-5409, and follow him on Twitter at @matt_cozzi.
NCAA MEN'S SWIMMING AND DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS
When: Thursday through Saturday; prelims start at 11 a.m. each day, and finals at 7 p.m.
Where: Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, 309 S. Madison St., Iowa City. Tickets are sold out.
What to watch: Four Iowa swimmers and one diver qualified for the meet. The four swimmers will be in the 200 medley relay (Friday, 11 am.) and 400 medley relay (Thursday, 11 a.m.); 1-meter diving prelims are 1:45 p.m. Thursday and 3-meter diving prelims are 1:45 p.m. Friday.