Wildcat swimming and diving excited for new season
file photo/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday August 22, 2001 |
Busch: "We're going to be a team that's going to contend"
The season after the UA women's and men's swimming and diving teams finished in fifth and sixth place respectively at last year's NCAA Championships, this year's squad is ready to capitalize on experience and the addition of incoming freshmen.
Frank Busch, the head coach for both teams, is staying conservative with preseason predictions, but said he thought both teams would do well.
"I think [the women] will have a very good team," he said. "We have some great new faces and we're going to be a lot healthier than in years past. I think our women will do very well. We're going to be a team that's going to contend."
The women's team took a blow over the summer when Olympian Amanda Beard decided to forego her remaining collegiate eligibility to accept endorsements. Having won at both the Olympic and collegiate level, Beard was the team's top breaststroker coming into this season.
"There's going to be an effect (on the team from losing Beard) but you don't know how much that's going to be," Busch said. "You don't just take an Olympic gold medallist and NCAA champion off the team. We'll need some other swimmers to step up. When one door closes, another opens up."
Freshman Emily Mason is being looked upon as one of the swimmers to pick up the slack from Beard leaving. She is coming off a stellar summer where she took the crown at the Phillip's 66 National Swimming Championships in the 200 Meter butterfly.
On the men's side, Busch said he felt the men could hold their own this season as well even though they lost 10 swimmers last season to graduation.
"The men will be very strong too," he said. "I don't see any reason why the men can't have a great year. We have some very talented swimmers and it's a relatively young team. They'll fill in well. I don't worry about them thinking they need to do something out of the ordinary."
file photo/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Former UA swimmer Amanda Beard swimming during a meet last season. Beard, a Gold Medalist in the Olympics and a National Champion at the breaststroke, bypassed her final year of eligibility to accept endorsement deals.
Busch spent much of his summer recruiting six new swimmers for the men's team - a group the coaching staff said is full of untapped talent.
Among the newcomers is local swimmer Chris Trimble, a graduate of Salpointe Catholic High School who will be looked to as a middle distance freestyler to pick up where graduates Jay Schryver and Scott Gaskins left off, especially in the 800 freestyle relay.
The women's and men's diving squads are looking toward the upcoming season as well, as they have been able to maintain the bulk of last year's teams.
Michele Mitchell-Rocha, UA's head diving coach, said she thought the number and quality of athletes returning will propel them to a great season.
"On our men's side we have five out of the six athletes from last year," she said. "We have two seniors from Mexico City, including Omar Ojeda, who was second and third at NCAAs last year. (They) have the same depth and strength (as last year) except now they have more experience and more team bonding time under their belt."
Last season saw the men's team maintain the level of success from seasons past. Mitchell-Rocha feels the UA should be the preseason favorite in the Pacific 10 Conference.
"For the last two years at the Pac-10 Championships we have done very well," she said. "Last year we won all three events, so on the men's side of diving we're the team to beat for the Pac-10."
Mitchell-Rocha doesn't reserve her optimism for the men - she said she expected the women's team to be just as competitive.
"The women's squad is exciting this year as well," she said. "Kelly Persinger, who transferred to us from the University of Texas last year will be (a factor) this year. She's consistently a finalist at the U.S. Nationals."
Returning sophomore and French National diving champion Claire Febvay is another returning standout for the women, having competed this summer in the World Championships.
"(Febvay) has a better understanding for college diving (this season)," Mitchell-Rocha said.
Sophomore Jennifer Hess could also be a factor for this year's team. Having broken her foot last year, she's seen as a wild card by the coaching staff, which feels she could be a difference-maker.
"She's been out of it for a yearm and she's been out of competition, and no one knows how she has gotten," Mitchell-Rocha said.
Adding to the excitement for the divers, the Pac-10 Diving Championships will be at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center on the UA campus. The tournament will take place February 28 through March 2.