Development Key for Bearcats Swimming and Diving
Head swimming & diving coach Monty Hopkins

Oct. 6, 2011

By Jeremy Powers

When head swimming coach Monty Hopkinswas asked about his men and women's team expectations this season he had different answers. His concerns with the men's squad coming into this season were simple. The Bearcats graduated the last three swimmers they had on scholarship and were not able to sign any blue chip recruits to help power the team this season. The women's squad has a different make-up, however. The lady Bearcats have an abundant amount of swimmers on scholarship and are poised to match the best finish the women's swim team has ever had in Big East competition. His coaching style remains the same for both genders and his hope is for his swimmers to post finalist-worthy times no matter who they are.

"We only have one Big East finalist returning on the men's side and that is Roberto Nevarez," Hopkins said. "The most interesting thing is we weren't able to recruit kids that were already good. It's a whole lot easier to start with a blue chip recruit and make them an all-American than start with somebody that's not."

Key names to remember on the men's side this season along with Nevarez is senor Haywood Miller and senior Matt Hays. Hopkins also stated that sophomore Joe Scherpenberg looked good in training and that a couple freshman, Kyle Smithand Awse Ma'aya have potential to be solid contributors by the end of the season.

"The guys are doing a great job and working hard but I think we are going to have some holes in the line-up," Hopkins said. "I think guys are willing to fill in those holes and make a difference."

As for the women's side they have a more stacked line-up with returning finalists and a number of scholarship athletes. Key names to remember on the women's side for this season include senior Josefin Wede, who was a Big East finalist last season and set a couple of school records according to Hopkins. Other swimmers looking to continue to make an impact are senior Liz Hansson, who was the Big East champion in the 50-meter free, and senior Stephanie Conklin. One freshman making a big splash already is Helena Pikhartova, who is ranked in the top 100 in the world in the 100-meter breaststroke.

"We have to work with people, take where they are now, and make them better," Hopkins said. "The great thing about this team is we do work together, men and women."

The tightness shown by both teams is the reason why swimming is such a unique college sport according to Hopkins. Other than track and field, swimming is the one sport in which men and women train together. Given the differences in personnel and progress between the two teams, the combined training makes both sides appreciate where they are.

"The only difference that your really getting into is the difference in personalities and I don't think it's dictated by the gender," Hopkins said. "Our women have been great because they understand the situation the men are under and very supportive of the men. It becomes a matter of pride to do great things."

The women's squad is looking to improve from last year's Big East finish, while the men are going to have to work hard to hang on. The freshmen on the women's side have big swim caps to fill as they will be replacing the times of last season's seniors.

"We have big losses on the men's side but I think we have guys that can be productive," Hopkins said. "It's going to be tough to compete this year but we are going to try."

Hopkins stressed the importance of academics within his teams and hopes his team will continue to be successful in the classroom, no matter how successful they are in the pool. Hopkins expects his team's academic achievement to continue because he stresses to his squads that they're here to go to school.

"Our women have consistently been among the top 20 to 25 teams grade point average wise in the country in college swimming," Hopkins said. "Our men last year were fourth last year in grade point average."

Other members of the coaching staff that Hopkins said deserves a lot of the credit are Michael Hewitt, Mandy DiSalle and diving coach Paul Glassman.

"A lot of the credit for the success we have had over the years and the success we expect this year goes to my assistant coaches," Hopkins said. "I'm lucky to have great coaches and a great facility right in the center of campus. Our kids are working hard and now we got to hope we can pull it together for a great year."

The swimming team opens up their season on Oct. 14 at Keating Aquatics Center on the campus of UC in the Bearcat Pentathlon/Alumni Invitational before hosting Xavier Oc. 21.