Nov. 24, 2009
By Jeff Gentil
As temperatures start to dip into the 40s and snow enters the weather forecast, naturally, it's time to start talking about the UC swimming and diving team. All kidding aside, the Bearcat swimmers and divers have been hard at work since well before their season-opening sweep over crosstown rival Xavier on Oct. 23.
Coach Monty Hopkins has another group of talented athletes, some who have the ability and potential to compete on a global stage. The Bearcats have a good mix of veteran leaders to go along with some younger, up-and-coming swimmers who have Hopkins excited about not only the current team, but future teams in Clifton.
"We have a great group of people," Hopkins said. "They've toughed it out and kept going. I'm very happy with everybody. As a coach, you always ask for more. It would be easier to just pack it in. These kids have a lot to worry about. They're students first, then swimmers. Some of them get frustrated (with so much going on). The only time I get disappointed is when they give up on themselves. But they have all bounced back and they ask what it takes to get better."
All student-athletes have to ride the emotional roller coaster that is the balance of school work and their sport. Hopkins has the enviable position of having a big group of upperclassmen - leaders who have been around the block and know how to deal with such obstacles like the many hours of training per day in addition to finding time to take care of their studies.
"They all know what it takes to swim big meets," Hopkins said. "In swimming, you have to be tough day-in, day-out and they all give great effort. But it doesn't fall on one or two shoulders to lead."
One of the most celebrated leaders is senior All-American Josh Schneider who, according to Hopkins, is on pace to have another record-setting year.
"This weekend (at the Indiana Invitational), Josh won four events and continues to get better," Hopkins said. "He is looking more and more like a world-class swimmer."
The Bearcats are expecting big years from seniors Jeremy Peter and Ryan Weitzel, as well as juniors Stephen Cunningham, Nate Kramer, and Nathan Williams.
"Jeremy Peter had an outstanding meet at Indiana," Hopkins said. "He swam the third-fastest backstroke in UC history. Ryan Weitzel is back after sitting out last year with ankle surgery. He has worked really hard. Stephen Cunningham and Nate Kramer are consistent swimmers. They give great effort all the time."
On the women's side, it's the end of the road for the de Jong sisters. Senior Elinore is the third and final de Jong to swim at UC, following Marein and Gerdien.
"I don't know what I'll do without the de Jong sisters," Hopkins said. "Elinore doesn't quit ever. The butterfly is a really good event for her, but she gets worn down. But you never get less then her best effort."
Another senior, Lange Gilby, has made significant strides and is really coming on in her final year.
"Lange has come a long way," Hopkins said. "She's been a part of some school record relays and hopes to get better as the year goes on. She has made tremendous progress."
Two juniors - Melody Smith and Bree Rossi - are swimming longer distances this year.
"Melody has been really frustrated," Hopkins said. "She has worked so hard toward one event (the mile) but hasn't gotten the results yet. She has worked hard every day, though. I know she'll be there at Championship time. Bree Rossi is starting to emerge as a really good mid-distance swimmer."
Liz Hansson had an excellent freshman season and is looking to have an even better sophomore year.
"Liz trains very hard all year," Hopkins said. "She is very ambitious about her goals."
Junior Kirtley Krombholz had an outstanding sophomore diving season and is doing nothing that would make Hopkins believe she won't have a great junior year. And she is being pushed by some rapidly-improving divers.
"Kirtley is doing dives this year that will get her to the finals of the BIG EAST meet," Hopkins said. "Brittany Teneyck, who transferred from Toledo, is really making a lot of progress and is pushing Kirtley. Maggie Eubanks is also having a good year. And, (on the men's side) Drew Ross has already qualified for the BIG EAST meet at the one meter event. They've all come a long way."