A young squad of Badger swimmers will be making their way to the northwest for this year’s NCAA Championships in Federal Way, Wash., this weekend.The men’s swimming team had five swimmers qualify for the championships that will be held today through Saturday at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center. Not one of those five swimmers is a senior; rather, there are three juniors (Scott Rice, Mike Desautels and Kyle Sorensen), a sophomore (Phil Davies) and one freshman (Mitch Buenger) making up the competing Badgers.“Heading into the NCAAs, we are going to try and improve from our showing at last year’s meet,” Badger coach Eric Hansen said.The Badgers have some work to do in Washington. Wisconsin finished 4-3 overall in dual meets this season but went only 1-2 in Big Ten competition, scoring their only victory over Iowa. The last two dual meets of the season were losses to Minnesota and Purdue on the first two days of February.However, Wisconsin does bring some momentum to the NCAAs. In their last high-stakes competition at the Big Ten Championships, Wisconsin finished seventh, one place higher than last year.Moreover, Wisconsin was able to place over No. 16 Penn State with a very strong last day of competition. Scott Rice led the charge on the final day, winning his heat of the 200-yard butterfly, affording him seventh place. And at the end of the day, a relay consisting of Desautels, Sorensen, Davies and Buenger finished fourth in the 400-yard freestyle race.“With all the elite competition, it will be tough to score individually,” Hansen said.”We are going to place a large emphasis on our relays, as they score double points.”The Badgers do bring some tough competitors to Federal Way. Rice finished second twice in Wisconsin’s losing effort at Purdue and had a third place finish versus Minnesota the day after. He will compete in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly events at the NCAAs as well as the 200-yard individual medley. Hansen said that the Badgers would focus on the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays, which would feature the Desautels, Sorensen, Davies and Buenger lineup. Sorensen will swim in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races and compete with Rice in the 100-yard butterfly in addition to his role in Wisconsin’s relays.Davies is also slated to swim in freestyle races, competing with Sorensen in the 50- and 100-yard races. He will also be the only Badger lined up to compete in the 200-yard freestyle. The freshman Buenger is slated to be the anchor of the relays.“It’s kind of a shock,” Buenger said of participating as a freshman in the NCAA Championships with the Badgers.”I’m just trying to follow what the other guys do.”He also described the jump to the NCAAs from high school swimming as “the biggest there is.”Despite Wisconsin’s hopes to wrangle some success in the relays and through a few individual races, the heavy favorite for the National Championship seems to be the University of Texas. The Longhorns are looking to bring in their tenth championship in team history and look apt to do it after their 800-yard freestyle relay shattered American, U.S. Open, and NCAA records at the recent Big 12 Championships with a time of 6:10:55, breaking the old time by over three full seconds. The Longhorns also cruised to their 29th consecutive conference title and are the hot hand heading into the meet.Wisconsin swimmers have seen high levels of competition already in the season and should be ready for what is to come, though.“The Big Ten is a real deep conference,” Buenger said.”We may not have the powerhouses, but it’s real deep.”Wisconsin finished 29th last year in the NCAA and enters this year’s meet in roughly the same position.— UWBadgers.com contributed to this report.