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Jorgensen, swimming and diving embracing new energy at home on Friday

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The Lancaster Aquatics Center has had a new energy about it since May, when Lars Jorgensen took over as the UK swimming and diving program's first new head coach in 22 years.

The UK swimmers, divers and staff members have had plenty to buzz about, and they haven't even had a home meet yet. That all changes on Friday at 5 p.m. ET when the Wildcats will host Ohio State in a dual meet, which will be the team's second competition of the season.

"We're looking forward to Ohio State on Friday," Jorgensen said. "We have a chance to be at home, which is a huge advantage for us. I think both the women and the men are going to be very competitive against Ohio State. We look forward to hearing the fans come out to support the Wildcats on Friday."

The Wildcats will without doubt be up for their first home meet of the 2013-14 campaign, but they will also be hoping some of their excitement rubs off on the Big Blue Nation.

The die-hard swimming and diving fans in the Lexington community always turn up to support the Wildcats at their few home meets. Yet those who don't keep the sport on their radar all the time, especially in Olympic years, could also be in store for a good time at the first of UK's two home meets this season.

Jorgensen and his staff have taken it upon themselves to create a more fan-friendly atmosphere starting on Friday.

The meet will begin the way many sporting events in Kentucky do: with a UK marching band member playing the "Call to the Post." In support of Breast Cancer Awareness the team will be wearing pink swim caps, and all fans who wear pink to the meet will be entered into a raffle to win a prize.

Still, Jorgensen and the rest of UK's swimming and diving program have no illusions. The fact remains that the greatest excitement at any athletics event comes from the competition, and the more competitive the meet is the more entertaining it is.

To that end UK will have a solid nucleus of returning stars with four athletes who qualified for the 2013 NCAA Championships. Chief among them will be senior diver Greg Ferrucci, who became the first ever UK diver to earn First-Team All-America honors on the 1-meter, 3-meter and platform during the same season in 2013.  

"Greg Ferrucci is our superstar diver," Jorgensen said. "He was UK Athlete of the Year at the CATSPY Awards among all sports, which is phenomenal. Every time he competes in a dual meet setting he gives the team a great chance to take two of the 16 events. That's a big help."

Ferrucci is off to a great start to his senior season, having won both the 1- and 3-meter competitions in the season-opener at Georgia two weeks ago. Ferrucci and Christa Cabot on the women's side headline the diving teams, which are currently focal points of the program.

"We have a really good diving program," Jorgensen said. "It gives us a chance against the No. 13 Ohio State men's program. Both are outstanding programs, but our diving will be a big difference to me."

It's a testament to Jorgensen's team-first philosophy in a sport, which is at its core very much individual-based, that even when talking about some of most effective contributors he ties it back to how everything fits in with the team.

"It is all about the team in college," Jorgensen said. "To me that's what is fun. It's a lot different than the Olympics, which is all based on individuals making a team. College swimming is all about the team. That's what I love about it. I'm not as concerned about just one particular person, our staff buys into the philosophy of it all adding up as a team."

UK's swimming program is not yet as developed as the diving aspect. The challenge of getting his teams to be more balanced across all disciplines is something Jorgensen is meeting head on, both in developing his current team as well as recruiting potential newcomers.

"We try to get our kids better every day," Jorgensen said. "Every single day is an opportunity for us to get better. If it's 6 a.m. or if it's in the afternoon I love going to practice. Everybody has some things they love about their job, but my favorite thing is practice. I love the opportunity to teach and try to make kids better.

"Recruiting and establishing the base of your team with kids that have good character and work ethic is important. Instilling that across the board is challenging. Once you have that ability you can create a culture where you are able to attract some better recruits."

Jorgensen is just months into a project that will take at least a few years to reach the new head coach's ultimate vision. Still the prospect of helping, and watching, as his team improves is what Jorgensen finds most exciting.

As intriguing as Jorgensen may find the day-to-day grind of swimming and diving training -- a process that takes hours of each day and pushes the human body beyond imaginable limits if it is to yield the results UK's coach has said he desires -- athletes still need benchmarks to keep them encouraged that they're on the right track.

And an early step to reaching those benchmarks will be establishing a home-meet experience that generates a buzz in the local community. People take notice when teams improve, and the UK swimming and diving teams will look to show how much they've done just that on Friday.

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