LARAMIE, Wyo. -
This season, the Cowgirls have assembled one of the most veteran groups in Wyoming swimming and diving history and the sky is the limit.
"The girls and I are looking for a top-three finish in the Mountain West Conference," said UW head coach Tom Johnson. "We bring back almost all of our points from last year's conference championships. I feel like we picked up so much in this freshman class and there is no reason why we can't battle for one of the top-three spots in our conference."
The Cowgirls welcome back ten seniors and nine All-MWC selections to this team. After combining that talent with a big and deep recruiting class, the Cowgirls have a very balanced attack that they will take into the 2006-07 season.
Leading the Cowgirls will be a solid group of seniors in Lauren Beard, Katie Bigger, Megan Boggs, Saara Haapanen, Holly Hansen, Emily Keefer, Tamara Lehnertz, Erin Spadinger, Lindsay Taylor and Heidi Thorson.
"We are really going to miss this senior class. They have been one of the most talented and academically oriented classes I have had the opportunity to work with. They are a great bunch of women and are going to be hard to replace. I am just glad we have one more year together. I am very excited to see what they accomplish in their final year at Wyoming," said Johnson. "I hope that our younger kids can learn from these seniors and carry that tradition of great swimming and great academics into the future."
Following is a look at the 2005-06 Cowgirl lineup:
Leading the sprinters will be senior Heidi Thorson and junior captain Angela DeWolf. Freshmen Amanda Kaiser, Cassie Stelow and Molly Janak will also compete in the sprints as true freshmen.
"We have a lot of rookies who are going to be tested early. However we have two great returners in Heidi Thorson and Angela DeWolf. Heidi is by far our best sprinter coming back and Angela will also be a big time leader," said Johnson.
Middle Distance Freestyle
The Cowgirl middle distance freestyle events will be led by two seniors in Tamara Lehnertz and Katie Bigger. Some youngsters who have surprised the coaching staff and look to contribute in these events include freshman Olena Moher and sophomore Krista Jones.
"We are as good as any team in the conference in these events," said Johnson. "Tamara Lehnertz has been the leader of the group for the past three years and we expect her leadership, hard work and great work ethic to continue to lead us. Katie Bigger will also be a leader in the middle distance events."
The distance freestyle group is one of the biggest groups on the team. They will be led by sophomore standout Aimee Stinson, who was a First Team All-MWC performer as a freshman. The depth behind Stinson is phenomenal. That depth is led by seniors Holly Hansen and Megan Boggs and junior Laura Glaab. Freshman Shauna Nelson has had a great fall and is really starting to put a move on to contribute to this program as well.
"We have such a big group, getting all of these kids into meets is going to be a large task. However, it is a great task for a coach to have," said Johnson. "Aimee had a great freshman year and really has her sights set on a conference championship and the NCAA Championships."
Junior Rachel Leyes and senior Lauren Beard will be vital to the backstroke events and will provide the leadership. Freshmen Olena Moher and Molly Janak will also step into these events in their first year at UW.
"We are a lot more solid than we were at this time last year," said Johnson. "I look for both Rachel and Lauren to have great seasons and compete for first place in every meet we swim. I am also excited about the potential of Olena and Molly and I think they will also be right in the mix of every race. I look for the backstroke to be one of the most competitive events within our own program."
Senior Erin Spadinger, a 2006 Honorable Mention Academic All-American, will lead the breaststroke events this season. She earned Second Team All-MWC honors in both events last season and just missed going to the NCAA Championships. Freshman Jessica Fruhwirth is a very talented freshman who will contribute immediately. Freshman Kaella Hartigan is a great sprint breaststroker and will also add to the program. Beard has also swam the breaststroke in the past and looks to continue to excel after some solid showings last season.
"We are hoping Erin can make the NCAA's. She is really hungry to wreck our school records and will be at the top of the conference," said Johnson. "Jessica is probably one of the most talented incoming freshman we have ever had. She has a lot of experience and I believe she is going to develop into one of the best breaststrokers we have seen. Kaella is very talented, has a great work ethic and we are very happy to have her. Lauren came in and did a great job last year and has a real solid breaststroke."
Thorson will lead the sprint butterfly, will push the UW record in the event and be right around NCAA qualifying time. Bigger, who was named Second team All-MWC in the 200 last year, will lead the Cowgirls in the 200. Senior Lindsay Taylor will also be a vital part of the Cowgirl lineup in the 200. Freshman Claire Wooster and Moher will also see time in the butterfly events this season.
"We have a lot of butterfliers and a lot of talent in the group," said Johnson. "Heidi, Katie and Lindsay are all special seniors and will be great leaders."
Senior captain Erin Spadinger will lead the charge in the 200 IM. Beard, who has earned all-conference honors five times in her career, will be a integral part of both IM events. Freshmen Jessica Fruhwirth and Kari Budd and senior Lindsay Taylor will also contribute to the IM this season.
"We have a lot of girls who can swim the IM and we are very deep in these events," said Johnson. "Erin will lead the 200, Lauren will be important in both events and Jessica, Kari and Lindsay will make this a deep unit."
The Cowgirl divers return three divers from last seasons team that accumulated the most diving points in the conference at the 2006 MWC Championships. Leading the way will be seniors Saara Haapanen and Emily Keefer and junior Brittany Wainwright. These three girls have amassed nine UW top-five marks and have earned ten All-MWC honors. Freshmen Emily Huth, Stephanie Ortiz and Nicole Zans are all talented freshmen who will contribute immediately.
"What Saara did at conference last year was unbelievable. She went from a big injury to a First Team All-MWC honor in a matter of weeks. Emily is a tremendous diver week in and week out and will have a great senior season. Brittany is very consistent and very powerful and I am sure will have another exciting year."