Swimming & Diving |
March 16, 2011
By Jeff Gentil
The UC Swimming team wrapped up the 2010-11 season February 16-19 at the BIG EAST Championships in Louisville. While the results might not scream "rousing success," the women had their best-ever finish (sixth) and the men took seventh out of 11 competing programs.
There were several outstanding individual performances. Among them was Liz Hansson swimming the second-fastest 200 backstroke in UC history, Nathan Williams with the sixth-fastest 1,650-yard freestyle, and the women's 400-yard freestyle team of Hansson, Kinsey Kowalski, Bailey Laban, and Weronika Wasiakowska with the fifth-quickest.
As for the team performance, head coach Monty Hopkins was pleased with the collective and individual results.
"Our focus is on championship swimming and the outcome at the BIG EAST Championships was by most measures very good," he said. "(In addition to the highest finish ever) our women recorded more UC all-time top-10 times and they set four school records."
While no one was able to qualify for the NCAA Championships, Hansson continued her march toward a potential berth next year.
"One of the primary measures of success is to qualify for the NCAA Championships, but that is an extremely high measuring stick," Hopkins admitted. "It (was) a huge jump to go from one final at the BIG EAST meet to the NCAA Championship. I think she, and others, can do it and that is why it's time to go back to work."
There were several other standout performers in addition to women's team most valuable performer Hansson (she also won most outstanding performance). Josefin Wede was newcomer of the year and Sammie Wheeler was the most improved.
On the men's side, Stephen Cunningham
was his squad's most valuable, Haywood Miller
was newcomer of the year, Roberto Nevarez
received most outstanding performance, and Joe Scherpenberg
was the most improved.
Despite losing four divers to graduation - Lindsey Bakan, Maggie Eubanks, Kirtley Krombholz, and Brittany Teneyck - the outlook is very rosy for next year on the women's swimming side.
"Brittany Groene, Stephanie Conklin, Alicia Berman, Bailey Laban, Kinsey Kowalski, Amanda Hardewig, and Weronika Wasiakowska were all pleasant surprises," Hopkins said. "Groene had her best meet as a Bearcat making it back in two events and making the all-time top-10 list. Steph just missed NCAA "B" cut in the 200 breast by :00.07 but did make USA Swimming National cuts. Alicia struggled most of the year but was able to have her best meet of the year (at the BIG EAST meet) and play a key role on the sprint relay."
The men, on the other hand, will lose some very valuable members including Cunningham, Nate Kramer, and Nathan Williams.
"Stephen, Nate, and Nathan have been at the core of the lineup for four years," Hopkins said. "But, we will also really notice the loss of Britton Van Dissel's attitude and leadership, Mike Whipkey's hard work and versatility and Brandon Metzler's competitive intensity."
But all is not lost. There are several returning talented swimmers capable of lifting the men to new heights.
"Seth Poitinger, Dan Oldham, Matt Hays, and Matt Hargrove were pleasant surprises," Hopkins declared. "Oldham was not on an "A" relay all season but earned his way into the 4x50 freestyle. Hargrove's dedication earned him terrific drops in all three of his events and Poitinger scored as a member of three relays.
Naturally, losing student-athletes to graduation always hurts, but every program loses swimmers every year. Overcoming that loss and getting better is the goal.
"This is the challenge (to get better) for the group we have returning and there are several excellent potential leaders," Hopkins said. "The question is whether the focus will be on looking back or aggressively moving forward. The challenge is to see who will emerge as the new leaders and the excitement is to see what they will do to make their team better."
While it would be impossible to predict which swimmers will come out of the pack to lead next year, Hopkins has a theory.
"The simple answer is that those who work the hardest are the ones who will improve the most," he said. "Division I Swimming is getting faster so if you aren't working harder than you did last year, you are falling behind. They have to choose to train and compete in the summer because that is what the highest achievers in this sport are doing. Those who improve the most are the athletes who commit to training every day to the best of their ability, who take care of their bodies, who handle their academic demands and who keep their lives in balance and their priorities in order. They are the ones who will be victorious. With the right effort in training and commitment to competing this summer, we will get back to the NCAA Championship and have swimmers score. Hopefully next season."