Big 12 pennants hang over the pool at the Lee and Joe Jamail Swimming Center. The podium is spruced up for the victors.
The stage is set for the Big 12 championships that start tonight, and Madisyn Cox is ready to defend her Big 12 Swimmer of the Year title.
“I just want to do what I can do right now with where I am in my training,” Cox said. “I just want to perform how I think I should perform.”
The meet is nothing new for the junior from Lubbock. Cox enters this week as a five-time Big 12 champion and a member of the U.S. Swimming National Team. But she’s quick to give advice to the freshmen taking part in the biggest meet of their lives thus far.
“It’s not as big of a deal as it seems,” Cox said. “It kind of seems crazy — walking in, all this stuff everywhere — the Big 12 logos — and it kind of seems a little intimidating. But when you’re in your race, it’s the same pool, the same water, the same turns as it’s been all year, so just kind of take a step back from the whole glam of it and swim your race.”
The No. 4 Longhorn women’s team comes into the conference championships looking for its fourth-straight Big 12 title, something that Cox has been very much a part of. She holds three career Big 12 individual titles, as well as two career Big 12 relay titles.
But Cox isn’t looking at the big picture. Instead, she’s focusing on the little moments.
“You can’t think of doing great things, you can’t go into it with the mindset of ‘Texas is going to win this,’” Cox said. “You just break it down into all the little things and just take it step by step.”
Women’s head coach Carol Capitani said Cox’s chances of holding onto her Big 12 Swimmer of the Year title are high.
“She’ll perform really well, but she may have some competition with some of our other kids winning their events,” Capitani said.
But Cox and the women’s team won’t be the only ones in the pool looking to continue a streak.
The No. 1 ranked men’s swimming and diving team is also preparing to compete in the Championships, with head coach Eddie Reese at the helm. In his 38 years coaching the men’s team at UT, Reese has won 36-straight conference titles.
The men will be led by junior Jack Conger, who holds the NCAA, American, U.S. Open, Big 12 and school records in the 200-yard butterfly and junior Will Licon, a three-time NCAA champion.
“If you work them as hard as we work them all year, and you finally come to a meet where you let up a little bit, they don’t have any problem wanting to go fast,” Reese said.
While the Big 12 Championship is important for both teams, Cox’s eyes are on a much bigger prize.
“The Big 12 Championship is a tune up meet for NCAAs,” Cox said. “NCAAs is the big goal of the year, but Big 12s is important. It’s where you see what you’ve done all year, you see where you are, what you need to work on and what things you need to think about in practice to progress to the [National Championships].”