LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The Cowboy swimming and diving team went through some growing pains last season but what was a young, inexperienced group has grown into a mature bed of talent. The 2006-07 season promises to be a very exciting one for the Cowboy faithful.
The Cowboys welcome back a pair of Mountain West Conference Championships in senior captain Ron Fogel and sophomore Alex Larkin. Fogel won the 200 butterfly and Larkin won the 200 breaststroke at the 2006 MWC Championships. The Cowboys also return four First Team All-MWC performers from a year ago, two of which led the Cowboys from the diving boards.
"The guys goal is to win conference and I don't want to squelch that goal. However, we are going to have to have a lot of guys step up to a new level of swimming in order to reach that goal," said UW head coach Tom Johnson. "I love the kids' excitement and determination and I believe they can do anything they put their minds to. Being at the top of the conference is a definite possibility."
This season there will be a blended group of experienced and inexperienced Cowboys. There are ten newcomers who will have to step in and make immediate impacts. However there are 15 returners, including five seniors, who will be right there to guide the youngsters.
"About a third of our team is new with nine freshman and a first year sophomore," said Johnson. "However, we have some great kids coming back who will guide this team."
A huge meet for UW will be going to the Texas Invite in late November and Early December. The Cowboys will compete against some of the best teams in the nation at the Invite.
"This meet will really put our feet to the fire and I think that because of the high level of swimming we will see in Texas, our kids will be ready for the bulk of the season and the MWC Championships. This is a great meet for us to be a part of and it will do nothing but help us down the road," said Johnson.
Following is a look at the 2005-06 Cowboy Lineup:
Sophomore Can Ince, freshman Vinny Crispino, Tommy Gregory, all newcomers to the Cowboy program, will be looked upon to lead the Cowboy sprints. A key factor will be how they respond to swimming at the college level. The MWC is very good in the sprints and will test these young guys right out of the blocks.
"One of the biggest needs we had to address following last season was our sprint freestyle and we did that. However, the kids we have in there are young and are going to have to figure out college swimming in a hurry. I have total faith that this group will be able to do exactly that and make an impact in the conference immediately," said UW head coach Tom Johnson.
Middle Distance Freestyle
The Cowboys have a deep group of middle distance freestyle swimmers that figure to score a lot of points for the Pokes this season. Leading the group are a pair of sophomores in Eli Bell and Matt Urich.
"We are as deep and as solid as any team in the conference," said Johnson. "Eli Bell was great as a true freshman and will continue to be a leader for us. Matt Urich really came on and was the biggest surprise of the season, so we are excited to see him continue to improve this season."
Nick King, a senior MWC finalist, will lead the distance freestyle events this season. Freshman Robbie Hilton, whose times would have scored in the top-eight of last years MWC Championships, brings a lot of raw talent to the group. Freshman Kyle Kavalec is another untested freshman who is showing a lot of promise.
"We're deep but not as front ended as I would like us to be," said Johnson. "Nick will continue to be a solid contributor and will have a nice senior season and I expect both Robbie and Kyle to become great Cowboy swimmers."
Sophomore Sam Shook will be a main part of the backstroke lineup, especially in the 100 and medley relays. The lineup is much deeper in the 200 with Shook, junior Sam King, senior Dan Jones and sophomores Eli Bell and John Hartley.
"One of our weaker areas has been the backstroke in the past but it is the area where I feel we have improved the most this season," said Johnson.
Wyoming has developed into "Breaststroke U" and will not miss a beat this year. The breaststroke leader for the Pokes will be the defending MWC Champion in the 200, sophomore Alex Larkin. Junior Will McCallum improves every year and looks to have a breakout junior season. Senior Dan Jones will swim more of the 200 breaststroke and junior captain Levi Bell will add depth to both events.
"We won a fifth consecutive MWC Title in the 200 with Alex and he is carrying on the tradition," said Johnson. "We really don't have a lot of newcomers in these events so it is nice to have a veteran crew. It will be great to be deep in these events with guys like Will, Dan and Levi."
One of the strengths of this team is without a doubt the butterfly. The defending MWC Champion in the 200 will lead the butterfly events in senior captain Ron Fogel. Sophomore Matt Urich had a great freshman year and was not far off Senior National cuts and will be a leader in these events as well. Junior captain Levi Bell and senior Nick King will both add depth to the butterfly events.
"We are as strong as any team in the conference in the fly," said Johnson. "We have talked about getting to the NCAA's with Ron for the past two years and hopefully we can get him there his senior year. Matt had a stellar freshman year and we look to see him continue to improve and be right on the bubble of the NCAA"s."
"IM is another event that we are very deep and loaded in," Johnson said. "When you are deep in the butterfly and breaststroke like we are, it really helps out your IM."
The Cowboys return one of the deepest and most talented groups of divers in Wyoming history. Leading the way will be seniors John Lynch and Kevin Bretting, both of whom received First Team All-MWC honors last season. Sophomore Tyler Miller had a solid freshman season and will be right in the mix of the top divers in the conference this season.
"All three of these guys had tremendous seasons last year," said Johnson. "They did great things for our team in a lot of dual meets and had a spectacular end of the season with conference and the zone meet. They are a great group of guys and work very hard. I appreciate everything they do for this program. I am so excited to see what they can accomplish this season."