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Baughman to help defend title

Citizen Staff Writer



She was a swimming legend back home in Indiana, but when she hit the University of Arizona campus four years ago, Taylor Baughman was hardly a splash.

“A tiny minnow in a huge pool,” is how she describes being knocked down to minuscule size. It too her until her junior year to even score for the always-celebrated Wildcat program.

The wait has been worth it.

“I wrote the word ‘swagger’ on my mirror before last year’s NCAAs,” she said, “and some goal times. I had to face it everyday.”

Baughman, senior Wildcat co-captain with teammate Lara Jackson, anchored three NCAA- record relays in those championships as Arizona won the national title.

This weekend the No. 4-ranked Wildcats will try to defend the title in College Station, Texas.

What could be better than winning again in 2009? Doing it again has been the reasoning for coach Frank Busch’s work-to-a-peak season-long process.

The relay teams had a tolerable start Thursday. The 200 freestyle team of Jackson, Justine Schluntz, Emma Darlington and Baughman was fourth in the preliminaries, matching the 1:27.47 best of this season.

In the 400 freestyle relay, it was Ana Angy, Anna Chandler and Dana Christ and Baughman winning in 3:29.89.

What Baughman went through was certainly not the first time for a successful UA swimmer.

“We bring everybody along slowly because that’s how our program is run,” Busch said. “Taylor was overwhelmed at first but she progressed, kept getting better. We expect that of all our kids.”

When Baughman, a journalism major and editor of the Tombstone Epitaph, came to UA from Carmel (Ind.) High School, she left a treasure-trove of school medals behind.

Opponents in the water were not the threat that complacency or injury was.

“I used to sit on the pool deck eating Pixie Stix then jump in and win,” she said. “One time I had a 102-degree temperature and after (the race), I sat on the deck dying. People thought my mom was the worst in the world for letting me do it. And I had just set these records.”

Her choices for school were Texas and Arizona and the decider was “the culture at Arizona, the best coaches in the world.”

The decider for Busch was a certain state of mind he sensed, one that you can’t coach.

“She loves to compete,” he said.

Baughman stands waiting her turn in the relay thinking teammates are cheering and opponents are quaking. She certainly feels the part.

“I really get caught up in the moment of competition,” she said. “I feed off the pressure. That’s the legacy I want to leave.

Bring it on. Every lap is another in the life.

“It leaves me hungry for the rest of life,” she said. “Take the world by storm.”

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