Exciting Season on the Horizon for Wyoming Swimming and Diving
Oct. 10, 2007
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
For the Cowboy swimming and diving team, what was a rather inexperienced group last season has grown into its own and will look to excel during the 2007-08 season.
The Cowboys return 13 letter winners, led by a two-time conference champion in junior Alex Larkin and the conference runner-up in both butterfly events, junior Matt Urich. The Cowboys also welcome back seven other First Team All-MWC performers including Eli Bell, Levi Bell, Sam King, Will McCallum, Tyler Miller, Sam Shook and Matt Urich.
"I think we are pretty balanced. We lost a couple of great guys from last year which is going to hurt. However, we have a very talented team this season," said UW head coach Tom Johnson. "We are great in the butterfly and breaststroke events and have a lot of depth in the IM. We also have some very talented young divers and I feel like we are much better in the sprints and backstroke. If we can get everyone clicking every weekend, we can win a lot of meets."
Following is a look at the 2007-08 Cowboy Lineup:
A pair of sophomores and a pair of freshmen will see the majority of time in sprints this season. Those sophomores, who gained a great deal of experience as freshmen, include Jamie Comrie and Tommy Gregory. Christian Johnson and Christian Verbrugghe are a pair of freshmen who share more than a first name--a great deal of talent.
"We have as good of a group as we have had in a long time in the sprints," said Johnson. "Jamie had a great summer and improved two seconds in the 50 free. Tommy has the mentality that he never wants to lose and he gets up for racing every weekend. We are also very excited about both of our freshmen. They are very talented and come from great high school programs."
Middle Distance Freestyle
Two juniors, Eli Bell and Matt Urich, will lead the way for the Poke middle distance freestyle this season. Senior Levi Bell has developed into a great 200 freestyle swimmer and will contribute to that event. Sophomores Sam Holmes and Matt Jones will add depth to the middle distance freestyle.
"I think that we are very talented and have good depth in the middle distance freestyle," said Johnson. "Eli and Matt Urich will lead the charge. Levi has developed into a heck of a 200 freestyler swimmer. Sam has great range and Matt Jones will add a lot of depth."
The Cowboy distance freestyle will be young but also very talented. Leading the way will be sophomore Robbie Hilton. Sean Sweet is a very talented freshman who will contribute immediately. Sophomore Kyle Kavalec and Matt Jones will also compete in the distance events.
"Robbie had a good summer and we are looking for him to be a leader as a sophomore and to be consistent week in and week out," said Johnson. "Sean is a very talented freshman while Kyle and Matt Jones will bring together the back end of those events."
"The backstroke is a much better event for us this year than it has been in the past," said Johnson. "Devin Hougardy and Nathan Fuller are both very good in the sprints. They are very fast off the block and underwater."
Junior Devin Hougardy, who transferred to Wyoming prior to the 2007 Spring semester from Rutgers University, showed a lot of improvement last semester and this past summer and will lead the backstrokers. Nathan Fuller, a very good freshman, will also contribute a great deal to these events. Senior Sam King and junior Sam Shook will add depth to the 200 backstroke.
A Wyoming swimmer has won nine of the last 12 MWC Championships and junior Alex Larkin will continue that tradition of greatness this season. Larkin won the 200 conference title as a freshman then won the 100 last season as a sophomore. He is a tremendously talented swimmer and has already secured a spot in the 2008 U.S. Olympic team trials.
"With Alex, we are not only looking for him to have a great season and make the NCAA Championship meet, we are also looking forward to the Olympic Trials this coming spring. He is a tremendously talented athlete and we are very excited to see what he accomplishes this season," said Johnson.
"Will had a super summer and is as fit as he has ever been. Levi will be a great leader in the breaststroke events. Bryan and David will both be key contributors and provide us with great depth."
It is never a positive thing to lose a conference champion to graduation like the Cowboys did with Ron Fogel in the 200 butterfly. However, when you have the runner-up on your roster the future is bright. Junior Matt Urich not only placed second in the 200 but also did so in the 100 at the 2007 MWC Championships. He has improved greatly and will contend for the conference championship in both events this season. Levi Bell, Schmitt and freshman James Rigg will add depth to the Cowboy fly.
"It is going to hurt losing Ron Fogel, the 200 fly conference champion the last two years. But it is nice to have the runner-up coming back for his junior year. Matt is as talented of a butterflier as I have ever coached," said Johnson. "Levi, David and Bryan are all talented in the fly and will back-up Matt very nicely."
"We are as good as anyone in the conference in the IM," said Johnson. "We are going to have a lot of competition for the IM spots in every meet. It is going to be a real battle to determine who is going to take the blocks each meet."
The Cowboys lost two of the best divers in school history in Kevin Bretting and John Lynch. Bretting became only the fifth Cowboy diver to compete in the NCAA Championships in 2007 while Lynch etched his name into the UW record books in every diving event.
Due to these losses the Cowboys will be young this season. However, that youth will make major contributions this season. Leading the divers will be the lone returnee in junior Tyler Miller, who earned All-MWC honors in 2007. Freshmen Kyle Bogner, Mark Murdock and Colter Yancey will all be called upon to contribute right away.
"For the first time, we are going to carry four divers on our roster, which is very exciting," said UW diving coach Ben Herdt. "Having that extra guy is really going to come into play in championship meets.
"We are a little young and did lose two great guys in Kevin and John. However, we will have a very good junior in Tyler Miller and he will score a lot of points for us. We also have three very capable freshmen that are going to contribute significantly right away and score a lot of points."
There is no doubt that the Cowgirl swimming and diving team has a few holes to fill after losing a tremendous senior class from last season. However, UW head coach Tom Johnson is ready for the challenge and is excited about the athletes that are waiting behind the blocks.
"It is a little scary to lose ten seniors who meant as much to this program as those ten women did. However, I feel like what we lost in leadership and experience we make up for in talent," said Johnson.
That talent features 15 returning letterwinners and seven returning First Team All-MWC performers. Those returners, combined with a very strong recruiting class of 13 women, makes for a very exciting story line heading into the 2007-08 season.
Leading the way for the Cowgirl returners will be junior Aimee Stinson. Stinson broke four school freestyle records as a sophomore last season and earned first team all-conference honors in three events. Senior Brittany Wainwright, the school record holder in two diving events, returns for her senior season after earning First Team All-MWC honors in two events last season. The Cowgirls also return five sophomores who earned first team honors as true freshmen.
Following is a look at the 2007-08 Cowgirl lineup:
The sprint freestyle will be led by sophomore Cassie Stelow. As a true freshman, Stelow earned first team all-conference honors in the 200 medley relay and swam the fourth fastest 50 time in UW history. She also just missed qualifying for the summer national championships in 2007. Senior Angela DeWolf, a two-time team captain for the Cowgirls, will also contribute to the sprints and will be a tremendous leader for the entire team. Freshman Erin Wagner is a very versatile newcomer who shows great promise in the sprint freestyle events.
Middle Distance Freestyle
After losing two seniors in the middle distance freestyle events in Tamara Lehnertz and Katie Bigger, some younger Cowgirls will be looked upon to lead the middle distance events this season. Those Cowgirls include Waggner and freshmen Stephanie Vint, Kristen Flachbarth and Caitlin Hudak. Junior Aimee Stinson, the school record holder in the 200 and 500 will also contribute to the middle distance events when called upon.
"We are pretty deep in the middle distance freestyle. We have some very talented freshmen in this group who we are going to throw into the fire right away. However, they're good enough to handle the transition and will get better with every meet."
Stinson, one of the most successful swimmers in UW history, will lead the Cowgirls in the distance events. In her two years at UW, she has already earned First Team All-MWC honors four times. At the 2007 MWC Championships, she broke the UW school record in the 200, 500, 1000 and 1650 freestyles. Junior captain Krista Jones had a great sophomore season and will back up Stinson as will sophomore Shauna Nelson. Vint can also swim all the way up to the 1000 and will add depth to the distance events.
"We look for Aimee to continue what she has begun and I think she is really going to make a run for a conference title and the NCAA's this season," said Johnson.
A pair of sophomores and one senior will lead the backstroke events in 2007-08. Those sophomores, Molly Janak and Olena Moher, each had very productive freshman campaigns and now have a year of experience under their belts. Senior Rachel Leyes will provide senior leadership to the Cowgirl backstroke. Wagner, Hudak and Flachbarth will all add depth, especially in the 200.
"We filled a lot of needs especially in the 200," said Johnson. "Obviously having Olena, Molly and Rachel back will be big for us. We have some very good freshmen who will really contribute to the 200."
The Cowgirls lost one of the best breaststrokers in school history in Erin Spadinger, due to graduation. However, the Cowgirls have a ton of young talent to fill those shoes.
A trio of sophomores will lead the way in Megan Evans, Jessica Fruhwirth and Kaella Hartigan. Evans, a transfer from Oregon State, brings a great resume to UW. As a freshman at OSU, she swam a pair of NCAA "B" cuts and turned in personal best times that would be new school records at UW. Fruhwirth had a very good freshman season that was highlighted with All-MWC honors in the 200. Freshman Lesley Young is a very talented newcomer who will also contribute to the Cowgirl breaststroke.
"We are as good as any team in the conference and close to any team in the nation in the breaststroke," Johnson said. "The way we are set up, we have very good sprinters and we are also very good in the distance. Megan is a hammer and we look for her to lead us in the breaststroke and IM. Jessica Fruhwirth had an awesome freshman year, which would have been even bigger if she wouldn't have had an appendicitis just before conference."
The Cowgirls lost one of the best swimmers in school history in Heidi Thorson and will have to look to some younger women to fill the holes left. Sophomores Maggie Bach and Kari Budd both had very good first seasons, developed a great deal and are ready for that challenge. DeWolf will also compete in the butterfly and is especially talented in the 100. Freshman Taryn Sisco will add depth to the fly events.
"Losing Heidi is really going to hurt. When you talk about someone who drops two seconds her senior year and gets an NCAA "B" cut, you are talking about someone who is pretty special," said Johnson. "However, I am excited about the kids we do have. There is a lot of talent and also a lot of room for improvement in the butterfly events, which is exciting."
"We are very good and very deep in the IM," said Johnson. "Megan will lead the charge and I expect her to close in on our school records by the midpoint of the season. Erin, Stephanie and Kari are all talented IM swimmers and will add a ton of depth."
That depth begins with Evans, who turned in an NCAA "B" cut in the 400 last season at OSU. Her personal best times in both the 200 and 400 would already rank as the best time in UW history and would have been the best time in the conference last season. Behind Evans will be a very strong contingent of Cowgirls including Wagner, Vint and Budd.
The Cowgirl divers will have some very big shoes to fill as they lose Saara Haapanen, the 2007 one-meter MWC Champion. However, a combination of experience and youth will make for a very exciting year of Cowgirl diving. The experience comes from senior Brittany Wainwright, the school one- and three-meter record holder. The youth comes from sophomores Emily Huth, Stephanie Ortiz and Nicole Zans. Freshmen Virginia Marcon and Allie Smith will look to make a quick transition from high school to college swimming and contribute this season.
"Due to our youth, we are going to have to work hard and improve this season," said UW diving coach Ben Herdt. "However, I am very excited for that hard work. We are very talented and the future is very bright.
"Brittany has had a great career thus far and I look for her to be consistent and have an exciting final year. Both Emily and Stephanie had terrific freshman seasons and will score a lot of points for us this season. Nicole, Virginia and Allie will all improve a great deal this year and will provide a lot of depth to our team."