Feb. 19, 2007
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
For the Wyoming swimming and diving team, the whole season comes down to this week when they travel to Oklahoma City, Okla. for the 2007 Mountain West Conference Championships. The meet will begin on Wednesday and will be held at Oklahoma City Community College's Aquatic Center for the eighth consecutive year. The Cowboys and Cowgirls have focused their training regiment toward this highly anticipated meet since the beginning of practice in September.
"We are very excited to get things going come Wednesday," said veteran UW head coach Tom Johnson. "We have spent the last three weeks trying to get everyone as sharp as possible for this meet. It is like Christmas Day and we are excited to get there to open our gifts and see what happens."
The Cowgirls enter the championships in great position as the third seeded team in the conference. They closed out the 2006-07 dual season with an 8-2 overall record and a 6-2 record in MWC dual meets. Utah leads the conference after posting a perfect 8-0 conference record and BYU is in second place with a 7-1 mark.
Ten Cowgirls rank in the top-ten of the conference in at least one event. Leading the way with the highest seed is senior captain Erin Spadinger and sophomore Aimee Stinson, who each hold the third highest time in an event. Spadinger is tied for the third fastest conference time in the 100 breaststroke and also ranks fifth in the 200 breaststroke. Stinson has posted the third fastest time in the 1650 freestyle and the sixth fastest time in both the 200 and 500 freestyle events.
Other Cowgirl swimmers who enter the conference championships in the top-ten of an event include senior Lauren Beard (5th in the 200 IM), freshman Cassie Stelow (6th in the 50 free), senior Heidi Thorson (6th in the 100 fly), freshman Olena Moher (8th in the 200 back) and freshman Kari Budd (10th in the 200 fly).
After winning the most points in the conference last season, the Cowgirl divers will look to continue that trend. Three Cowgirls enter the championships with scores in the top-ten in the conference. Seniors Saara Haapanen and Emily Keefer and junior Brittany Wainwright will lead the way. Haapanen holds the 6th highest 1-meter score and the eighth highest 3-meter score, Wainwright ranks fifth in the 1-meter and eighth in the 3-meter and Keefer ranks ninth in the 3-meter.
One vital component of the championships for the Cowgirls will be the five relay events. The Cowgirls posted the second best time in the conference in the 200 freestyle relay and the fourth best time in the 400 freestyle, 800 freestyle, 200 medley and 400 medley relays during the season.
"The women are looking for their highest finish ever but it is going to take a total team effort to get there," said Johnson. "The thing that is going to be the most important are the relays. We have a good seed in each one and those points are going to be very important for us to achieve our goals."
The Cowboys will be looking to improve on a disappointing sixth place regular season finish at this week's championships. They finished the dual season with an overall record of 2-5 and a conference mark of 0-5. UNLV and BYU tied for first place in the conference dual standings with identical 4-1 records.
A pair of Cowboys will be looking to repeat as conference champions this season in senior Ron Fogel and sophomore Alex Larkin. Fogel won the 200 butterfly title last season while Larkin won the 200 breaststroke, marking the fifth consecutive time a Cowboy swimmer has won that event. Fogel holds the fastest time in the 200 butterfly this season but Larkin ranks second in the 200 breaststroke. Larkin also ranks second in the 100 breaststroke.
The Cowboy diving team has been nothing short of spectacular this season. They have been led by a great pair of seniors in Kevin Bretting and John Lynch. Bretting holds the second highest score in both springboard events and Lynch ranks third in each event. Sophomore Tyler Miller ranks eighth in the conference in both diving events.
Other Poke swimmers who bring top-ten times into the meet include sophomore Matt Urich (second in the 100 fly, third in the 200 fly and eighth in the 200 free), freshman Robbie Hilton (fifth in the 1650 free), junior Sam Shook (sixth in the 400 IM and seventh in the 200 IM), Fogel (eighth in the 100 fly), junior Will McCallum (eighth in the 200 breast), junior Sam King (eighth in the 400 IM), senior Dan Jones (10th in the 400 IM) and senior Nick King (10th in the 1650 free).
"The guys are looking for some vindication by beating some of the teams that beat us during the dual season," added Johnson. "We are a vastly improved team from last year and the guys are excited to show that off."
The championships will run from Wednesday, Feb. 21 through Saturday, Feb. 24. Preliminary races will begin each morning at 10 a.m. (Central time) and finals will be held each night at 6 p.m. Real-Time results will be available on the MWC's official website at http://themwc.cstv.com/champ/swim-champ-2007.html.