Kansas Swimming & Diving 2012-13 Season Preview

Oct. 4, 2012

A strong group of upperclassmen and an influx of young talent has this year’s swimming and diving team looking to improve its 5-5 dual meet record and fourth place finish at Big 12 Championships from a season ago.

Led by senior captains Brooke Brull, Alyssa Rudman, Rebecca Swank, the junior and senior classes, make up a majority of this year’s roster. Three sophomores and a talented group of seven freshmen, including two that come in with Olympic trial qualifying times already under their belts, round out the Kansas roster. Head coach Clark Campbell knows that in order for his team to be successful this season, he will need both groups in sync and ready to go right away.

“It is a good blend of top heavy with the upperclassman, which is good because of the leadership, but on the underclassmen side, we have a lot of ability,” Campbell said. “We are going to need everyone firing on all cylinders and doing really well and staying competitive, but it is reasonable.”

After recently finishing an Olympic quadrennium, this year’s team is more experienced, well rested and looking to improve at the conference meet this year.

“We had a little more energy and excitement starting the year, which is good, Campbell said. “The potential for this group from what we learned last year, going into this year, is good. I think everyone is in a really good place.”

Big 12 newcomers TCU and West Virginia will make it that much tougher for the Jayhawks to improve on their fourth-place finish from a year ago. However, Campbell’s squad is looking forward to the challenge and believe they can be right in the thick of things come February.

“We really feel we can be in that hunt,” Campbell said. “TCU and West Virginia are coming in and they are a lot like us in many ways. It is just going to be really competitive, but it is not something that isn’t attainable, we can do this.”

Six home events highlight the Jayhawk schedule, which includes defending Big 10 champion Minnesota and a five-team championship style meet, hosted by the team in the fall.

“We are really excited about this year, because we have more home meets than we are generally used to,” head coach Clark Campbell said. “We have a good mix of teams coming in and we are really excited about going to Topeka for our fall championship meet. It will be the first multi-day meet we have had, in a championship format, since I have been coaching here.”

The highlight of the road schedule comes just after the holidays, when the team travels west to Los Angeles for a tri-meet (Jan. 12) with the Mountain West runner-up San Diego State and host UCLA. After spending a few days in California, the team will leave the lower 48 to travel farther west to Honolulu for a week of training. The week will conclude with a dual meet against Hawaii, who placed third in the WAC a season ago.

“Hawaii is something that will be a first for our team,” Campbell said. “Getting to spend a few days to do the Hollywood thing in LA and getting to swim really good UCLA and San Diego State teams, helps to break up the trip a little bit.”

Plenty of returning talent and blend of newcomers, fuels the belief that freestyle will be a strong group for this year’s Jayhawks. On the sprinting side, the team returns Svetlana Golovchun, who had a top-15 finish in the 50 at last year’s Big 12 Championships, and Kaja Kolsek, who will look to have a solid year after transitioning from long-course to short-course racing during her freshman campaign. Senior Madison Wagner, who set her career-best time in the 50 at last year’s Big 12 Championships, will also be counted on heavily to contribute in the shorter-distance events.

In the middle distance events, Campbell has confidence in Kansas native, freshman Haley Molden who currently holds all the freestyle records at Washburn Rural, to turn heads in the coming years.

“(Haley) has big goals right now,” Campbell said. “She is definitely on that 2016 track, so she is going to come in and make a statement right away.”

Swank and Morgan Sharp, KU’s record holder in the 500 free, will be relied upon to score in the long distance events. Also in that group is junior Alison Moffit, who finished in the top-eight at the Big 12 Conference Championships a year ago.

“We are well represented in freestyle,” Campbell said. “We have people who can do the short stuff, all the way to the long stuff, so we should be pretty strong.”

Another deep group for the Jayhawks, the backstroke core is led by Brull and Rudman, who scored in the 100 and 200 at the Big 12 Conference Championships last year. Freshman Alina Vats has competed in big meets and is another newcomer the Jayhawks will be looking at to make an impact right away.

“(Alina) is a very, very good backstroker,” Campbell said. “She has world championship experience and she was really close to making the Ukrainian Olympic team this past year. She is going to make some noise.”

Sophomore Caroline Patterson and junior Sara Snow, set new career-best times at the Big 12 Championships last year and will also be counted on to add depth in both the 100 and the 200-yard events, to round out the group for Campbell.

Led by senior Rebecca Swank, who scored last year at the Big 12 Conference Championships in the 400, the individual medley is the least represented group on the Jayhawk roster, but one of the most talented. Senior Brooke Brull will anchor the 200-yard event, while freshmen Chelsie Miller, who had Olympic trial cuts in both distances, and Bryce Hinde will add depth in their respective distances.

“We were definitely hit hard by graduation,” Campbell said. “We are bringing in a young hot shot in Chelsie Miller, so she, along with Brooke Brull in the 200 IM, will be leading the way.”

The loss of Olympic trial qualifier Stephanie Payne and Kath Liggett, who graduated last spring, will certainly be felt in the butterfly this season. However, the young talent of Sofiia Filatova and Deanna Marks, as well as junior Malia Johnson, who had top-15 finishes in the 100 and 200 at the Big 12 Championships, has optimism about the future of the position rising.

“We are probably not as deep as we could be, but we are young,” Campbell said. “They are going to be around awhile and that is their thing, but they are very good, so it is a good group.”

Senior breaststroker Brittany Rospierski and junior Alison Lusk return after scoring last season at the Big 12 Conference Championship meet. Freshman Bryce Hinde made her Olympic trial cut in the 100 just after the trials and will be looking to improve on that time this year.

“Breaststroke is definitely one of our more solid events,” Campbell said. “We have good talent and good depth, which should definitely be a strong point for us.”

Senior Cora Powers, who placed fifth in the 200-yard event at the Big 12 Championships, and freshman Chelsie Miller, who had an Olympic trial cut in the 200, will also be counted on to contribute.

Diving coach Eric Elliott is excited for the start of the season and what his team will be able to accomplish after returning both of his top divers from a season ago. Senior Christy Cash and junior Alyssa Golden both qualified for the Zone Diving championships last season and will be looking to improve on their marks this year.

“I think it is going to be really great,” Elliott said. “The level of competition is pretty steep, but having those experiences under their belt going into their junior and senior year is going to have them really ready to go this year.”

In addition to his returning talent, Elliott welcomes two newcomers to the roster. Freshmen Meredith Brownell and Madeline Martin will give the Jayhawks depth that they haven’t seen in a few years.

“Their eyes are pretty wide open,” Elliott said of his first year divers. “I am excited to have some young blood in here and have the upperclassmen guide them and really show them how the program works and what is expected of them.”

One Meter Dive
Last season Cash and Golden both set career best scores in the one-meter, scoring 289.04 and 269.02. Both will be looking to improve on their finishes last year at the Zone Diving Championships, where they finished 30th and 35th respectively. Freshman Meredith Brownell will add depth to the Jayhawk rotation.

“(Meredith) will be one of our strongest one meter divers,” Elliott said. “She has the tools, she has the dives, she has the mechanics. I think she is going to do very well, especially as a freshman coming in.”

Three Meter Dive
Cash also set a career best in the three-meter event last season, scoring 257.02 on six dives in a dual against Arkansas and finished 28th at the Zone Diving Championships with a score of 241.15. Golden placed 38th at Zones with a score of 189.15.

Cash and Golden both set career bests in the platform event at the 2012 Big 12 Championships, scoring 240.00 and 145.95, respectively. Both divers also qualified for the Zone Diving Championships where they placed 18th (214.55) and 28th (128.75).

“(Christy’s) strongest event is platform,” Elliott said. “I think she can really crank it up there. She is definitely our strongest competitor as far as knowing how to compete and keep it together when it counts.”