Swimming and Diving 2008-09 Season Preview
Oct. 7, 2008
LAWRENCE, Kan. – With a 2007-08 overall season record of 7-2 in dual meet action and a fourth place finish in the Big 12 Conference, the University of Kansas Swimming and Diving team is coming off another strong season. Last year, Kansas also set numerous academic records in addition to several records in the water.
The Jayhawks will build off last year’s momentum and look forward to another solid year in swimming, diving and academics. KU returns 23 letterwinners from last year and a talented, yet diverse incoming recruiting class of seven will help the Jayhawks try to achieve their goal to finish in the top half of the Big 12. Leading KU this year will be its nine seniors who as a group were named the team’s captains.
“We have nine very capable leaders on the team,” head coach Clark Campbell said. “They all bring something different and unique to the table, so instead of doing captains this year, we have decided to go with our nine seniors. They have meant so much to our program over the past three years that we are excited to have them lead our program for one last year.”
“Every year we look to be in the top three of the Big 12,” Campbell said. “It will be a challenge this year because Texas and Texas A&M return several Olympic-quality swimmers and Missouri had another good recruiting class. The Big 12’s are a long ways away and time is on our side. We plan to use that time wisely and see what happens.”
Leading Kansas in the distance free will be senior Molly Brammer, who returns from an injury sustained last year. Fellow senior Kendall Matous will also be counted on to provide depth and leadership in the distance free events. Freshman Shannon Garlie will be counted on to contribute immediately. Juniors Emily Lanteigne and Carrah Haley will lead the Jayhawks in the 500 free. KU will not boast depth, rather quality talent in this event.
Senior Maria Mayrovich has been KU’s best sprint freestyle swimmer for the past few years and that is not expected to change this year. Mayrovich should be in the mix for qualifying for an NCAA Championships berth. However, unlike the distance free event, KU has plenty of depth to backup Mayrovich in the sprint free.
Sophomore Amanda Maez showed great improvement last year as a freshman and will try to continue that steady growth. Fellow sophomore Lisa Dlugopolski had a solid freshman campaign and is being counted on to score at the 2009 Big 12 meet. Junior Erin Goetz had a tremendous 2008 Big 12 meet and looks to carry that success over to this season. Senior Anne Liggett also had a strong Big 12 meet after taking 2006-07 off and will try to close her Jayhawk career with a great season.
Senior Jessica Brozek will provide depth and leadership in the sprint free events. They will be counted on for mentoring the incoming freshmen like the promising Sarah Hettenbach. Junior Whitney Taylor will also be counted on to help in the short free events.
Backstroke is the event that will be most affected by graduation, but there is exciting talent ready to step in and fill the void left by the 2008 seniors. KU returns three scorers at the 2008 Big 12 championships in juniors Melissa Heyrman, Carrah Haley and Whitney Taylor.
Ukrainian newcomer, Iuliia Kuzhil, has been brought in to help in the 100 and 200 backstroke. The coaching staff believes that after a period acclimating herself to NCAA-level competition, she will be a major force for the Jayhawks.
Leading the way for the Jayhawks is three-time NCAA qualifier senior Danielle Herrmann. Herrmann, KU’s only 2008 NCAA qualifier and 2008 Tammy Thomas Team MVP, broke her own school records in the breaststroke last year. KU’s other senior breaststroke swimmer is Rhynn Malloy. Malloy has been a solid contributor to the program and should challenge for a top-10 finish at the Big 12’s in the 200 breaststroke.
Sophomore Joy Bunting, KU’s 2008 Newcomer of the Year, had a strong 2008 Big 12 meet and will look to establish herself as a team leader in 2009. The coaching staff believes Bunting has a chance to join Herrmann at the 2009 NCAA Championships. Fellow sophomore Sarah Beth Edwards may show the greatest improvement from her freshman year to her sophomore campaign of any Jayhawk swimmer. Newcomer Stephanie Payne is a good all-around swimmer and should provide the Jayhawks with some depth in the breaststroke.
Senior Ashley Leidigh, a former NCAA Championships qualifier and a three-time Big 12 finalist, will lead KU once again in the butterfly. After battling through various injuries, Leidigh is healthy once again and could challenge her own team records. Leidigh’s leadership will be counted on as a young, new group of Jayhawks have come in at the butterfly event.
A pair of sophomore sisters, Alyssa and Brittany Potter, will join Leidigh to form a solid group of returners. Brittany recorded some impressive butterfly times as a freshman and the coaching staff looks for her to continue to improve her times. Alyssa, a well-rounded swimmer, will specialize in the butterfly.
High School All-American Abigail Anderson from Hendersonville, Tenn., is one of KU’s most heralded recruits. The coaching staff believes she will excel in the college environment and has “exciting potential.” Fellow freshman Payne’s best event may be the 200 butterfly. She should push for an NCAA berth this season.
Freshman Juliann Vignatelli, a Wichita native, should show steady improvement over the next four years. Coach Campbell has called her a “real diamond-in-the-rough.” Anderson, Payne and Vignatelli are not the only talented freshmen butterfly swimmers, but the coaching staff is also excited about Kath Liggett, the younger sister of senior Anne Liggett.
The Individual Medley is an event that KU has traditionally seen less success than in the others, but that may be changing behind Payne’s all-around talents. She, along with Bunting, will form a strong contingent of 400IM swimmers.
In the 200IM, Herrmann will continue to lead the Jayhawks, but Bunting may contribute in the 200IM this year. Adding quality depth to the IM will be Potter twins.
Kansas’ medley relays should be a strength as it has all the components for a very formidable relay squad. Expected to lead the Jayhawks in the medley relays are: Kuzhil in the backstroke, Leidigh in the butterfly, Herrmann in the breaststroke and Mayrovich in the freestyle.
Kansas will be strongest in the short freestyle relays, however the freestyle relays are far from set and there will be heavy competition to fill those spots.
Diving coach Eric Elliot will lead Kansas’ small, yet talented group of 2008-09 divers. Four returning divers will comprise KU’s team: Allison Ho, Hannah McMacken, Erin Mertz and Meghan Proehl.
“Eric has done a tremendous job with the diving program,” said Campbell. “He has really put a great signature on it and has been able to attract high talent.”
Mertz, a sophomore, will pace the Jayhawk diving team once again after a successful freshman campaign. Her three teammates are also capable as they all scored at the Big 12’s last season.
“We’re looking forward to having a small, but very developed and high-level diving program this year,” said Campbell. “I think we are going to have a lot of success on the boards.”
Kansas will conclude its preseason training with an intrasquad meet Friday, Oct. 10 at 4 p.m., at Robinson Natatorium. The intrasquad meet will be the precursor to swimming and diving’s opening competition the following weekend in Arizona. Next week, the Jayhawks will travel to Tempe, Ariz., to take on Arizona State on Friday and will follow that up with a duel on Saturday in Flagstaff, Ariz., against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. Kansas’ first home duel is scheduled for Oct. 23 against Texas A&M.