LARAMIE, Wyo. -
This season, the Cowgirl swimming and diving team looks to build on a sixth place finish at last year's Mountain West Conference Championships, continue to improve and build the program into one of the top programs in the conference.
With just one senior, Kristin Lewis, and five juniors, the Cowgirls have the young talent needed to be successful in the future and the leadership to be successful now. 14 sophomores who made huge impacts last season as freshman will look to build on their experience from last year and improve this season. Seven freshman will be looking to transition to a new level of swimming and diving as they compete for the first time as Wyoming Cowgirls.
"We have a very strong and very young team," said UW head coach Tom Johnson. "We lost some talented girls to graduation but I think we did a great job of recruiting and have some real talent looking to step up and contribute. We return a lot of points from last year's conference championships and that's a great thing."
Here is how the Cowgirls stack up in each event:
The Cowgirls took a big hit with the loss of Katie Haywood, who played a huge role in these events last year but have the talent to compete and win points in the sprint freestyle events each and every meet.
Middle Distance Freestyle:
The Cowgirls are solid in the middle distance freestyle events and are expected to make a big impact in each meet this season.
The second and third fastest 200 freestyler's in UW history, sophomore's Katie Bigger and Tamara Lehnertz, will lead the charge. Junior Toni Elliott and sophomores Holly Hansen and Lauren Beard will add depth to the middle distance freestyle events.
"Kristin improves every season and is a great leader on this team," said Johnson. "Holly and Tamara look great and I am expecting big things in our distance events."
The Cowgirl backstroke is alive and well and will mostly rest in the hands of Beard and freshman Rachel Leyes. Beard looks to improve on a fifth place showing in the 200 at last year's MWC Championships and Leyes is an extremely talented freshman who will look to make the transition to college swimming to provide crucial backstroke points.
"We are as deep and as talented in the breaststroke as any team I know of," said Johnson.
Spadinger swam the second fastest 100 and fourth fastest 200 time in UW history last season. Leziy-Miller swam the second fastest 200 time last season.
The butterfly will be a solid event for the Cowgirls this season. Leading the way in the 100 will be Thorson and Russenberger while sophomore Stacey Zenker, Bigger, sophomore Lindsay Taylor and Elliott will compete mostly in the 200.
"I think that we are very good and very deep in the IM events this season," said Johnson. Junior transfer Shelbi Settlage, Beard, Spadinger and Leziy-Miller will be the heart of the IM events this year.
Beard swam the second fastest 200 and 400 IM times in UW history last season as a true freshman. She finished fifth at the conference championships in both events.
The Cowgirls return two of four NCAA Zone "E" Qualifiers from last year in sophomore's Saara Haapanen and Emily Keefer. Another sophomore, Maggie Stapp and freshman, three-time Wyoming State Champion, Brittany Wainwright will play a crucial role on the diving boards. First year head coach Ben Herdt will be leading the divers this season.
"We bring back a lot of points to our diving events," added Johnson. "Ben is doing a great job, the girls are working extremely hard and I think the diving events will be extremely exciting to watch this year."