Kansas Swimming & Diving 2013-14 Season Preview

LAWRENCE, KAN. — A large influx of newcomers and experienced upperclassmen, has the 2013-14 Kansas swimming and diving team hoping to build on its 6-4 (2-0 Big 12) dual meet record and fourth-place finish at Big 12 Championships a year ago.

A large freshman class will make up nearly half the team, sparking a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the upcoming season. The 11 freshmen will turn to senior captains Alison Lusk, Alison Moffit and Morgan Sharp for leadership and advice. Head coach Clark Campbell knows that a lot of learning lies ahead in order for everyone to be ready for the first meet.

“There is tremendous excitement surrounding the number of the incoming freshmen this year,” Campbell said. “There is going to be a lot of energy that comes in from them and I know the upperclassmen are looking forward to that. At the same time, there is going to be a lot of learning that needs to happen and everyone needs to pitch in to help these new girls learn the Jayhawk way of doing things.”

Due to the sizeable number of Jayhawks that haven’t participated at the college level yet, Campbell wants every member of his team to understand what they are working toward.

“Our mission statement is ‘maximizing your potential’,” Campbell said. “The bottom line is that we want every athlete to compete to the best of her ability in February at the Big 12 Championships. We have some really good dual meets throughout the season against stiff competition that will test us on our readiness for the championships, but the idea is (that) we want everyone to peak at the right time.”

To keep them on track, the team came up with goals to help get to where they want to be by the end of the season. The team is striving for a winning dual meet record, to have qualifiers compete at the NCAA Championships, a top-two finish at the Big 12 Championships and a team 3.30 GPA or above.

While the student-athletes have set expectations for themselves, Campbell has things he wants them to accomplish, as well. He knows the team has a lot of potential and he wants his team to live up to what they are capable of.

“With a great recruiting class coming in this year, we are a fairly complete team,” Campbell said. “I am confident that we are pretty solid in all of our events and I think we have the talent we need in order to accomplish a lot this season. I expect that we will have swimmers wearing a Jayhawk cap this year at the NCAA Championships.”

Ultimately, like any coach, Campbell wants every member of his team to improve this season. The main focus of practices will be to help each athlete improve in their respective area. The team’s training strategy is very individualized in order to achieve that goal.

“We are going to do the same thing we do every year, and that is to make each individual athlete on the team better,” Campbell said. “I think of it like spokes on a wheel. We have a 25-spoke wheel and we need to make sure that every spoke is strong and ready to go.”

Freestyle The team will rely on the many newcomers to stay successful in the freestyle events. On the sprinting side, the team brings in freshman Leah Pfitzer who was a Texas all-state finisher and a finalist at the Texas State Championships all four years of her high school career. Freshman Lea Wissocq from France will also add depth to the freestyle group. Wissocq won a silver medal for the 2013 French Junior National Team in the 100-meter freestyle race. She is also competed in the 2010 European Junior Championships.

For middle-distance events, the Jayhawks will rely on sophomore Haley Molden who closed out the 2013 season with three top-15 finishes at the Big 12 Championships placing 11th in the 200-yard freestyle, and senior Morgan Sharp, KU’s record holder in the 500-yard free.

“In the middle-distance events, we are led by Haley and Morgan,” Campbell said. “They are both Big 12 finalists and had very good seasons last year as well as good summers. We will count on those two a lot in the middle-distance freestyle events.”

For the distance events, the Jayhawks return sophomore Chelsie Miller and senior Alison Moffit, who were both Big 12 finalists last year. Miller was named the 2013 Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year. The two veterans are now joined by incoming freshman Lindsay Manning.

“One of our go-to people for the distance freestyle events will be Lindsay,” Campbell said. “She is one of the top swimmers coming out of Texas this year and she will come in and elevate the group right away.”

Incoming freshman Allison Merecka is expected to round out the group helping in the 500, 1000, and mile freestyle events.

Backstroke The recruiting class is going to play a very important role in the backstroke events. The team returns senior Sofiia Filatova, and she is accompanied by a powerful group of freshmen. They include Hannah Angell, who set a Kansas state high school record for 5A and Sammie Schurig who was an Olympic Trial qualifier in the 200 backstroke. Freshman Yulduz Kuchkarova will also add depth to the backstroke events.

“Kuchkarova is going to really lead the way for us,” Campbell said. “She was a 2012 Olympian and she’s been to four or five World Championships. I’m hoping that she will not only compete well at the highest level in the Big 12, but at the NCAA level as well.”

Butterfly Junior Deanna Marks, who ended last season with season-best times in the 100-yard and 200-yard butterfly events at the Big 12 Championships, will help the Jayhawks gain points in her respective distances. Senior Malia Johnson will also aid in the team scoring efforts in the shorter butterfly events.

“Along with Deanna, helping us out will be Leah Pfitzer, one of our freshmen from Texas, is a very good at the 100-butterfly and she is expected to improve in the 200-butterfly,” Campbell said.

Breaststroke The duo of Lusk and Hinde return after both having successful seasons in last year’s breaststroke events. Lusk closed out 2012-13 with a season-best time in the 100-yard breaststroke at the Big 12 Championships. Hinde was unable to compete in the Big 12 Championships, but she won the Sectional Championships in July and went to the US Open this summer.

“The breaststroke is arguably our strongest event,” Campbell said. “Alison is a multiple time Big 12 finalist and an NCAA qualifier for the past few years, as well. Then there’s Bryce who had a tremendous freshman year. Unfortunately, she became ill before the Big 12 Championships, but she had a tremendous summer. The coaching staff, myself included, is excited to see what she has to offer this season.”

Along with those returners, Pocisk is predicted to complete the group for the breaststroke events.

individual medley Led by Miller, who finished first in the 400-yard IM at the double-dual meet against TCU and North Dakota, the individual medley is an area in which the Jayhawks may have to make the most improvement. The Jayhawks graduated numerous athletes who specialized in the IM last spring, and are looking to develop some strength in the event this year.

“Miller makes us very strong in the IM events, but we don’t have a lot of depth,” Campbell said. “So we are going to need folks to step up and fill the void.”

In addition to Miller, Campbell said he expects sophomore Bryce Hinde to score some points in the individual medley events. The Jayhawks bring in Schurig and fellow freshman Gretchen Pocisk for depth to the category, as well.

Diving New diving coach Brian Pritt is excited to help the Jayhawks work toward a successful 2013-2014 season. Senior Alyssa Golden, who set personal-best scores in the three-meter and platform events last season, will provide strong leadership, helping the underclassmen, as well as Pritt, become acclimated to his new role.

“She’s a really hard worker,” Pritt said. “She expects to get better and she expects me to be the one to get her there. She can help me to build the culture that I want here with the underclassmen and recruits coming in.”

With Pritt being new to the Kansas coaching staff, he has brought with him new expectations for his divers. He hopes to make some improvements to the facility and get more modern equipment for training. He also expects his divers to get to the next level of difficulty this season.

“I have high expectations,” Pritt said. “Number one, I expect to increase the difficulty of the dives being performed and to better the techniques and mechanics that the girls have right now.”

With new expectations come new goals. Pritt wants to be represented at NCAA Zone Diving Championships in the spring, as well as at the NCAA Championships. He demands a lot from his divers and he is going to do what he can to get them there.

“This year I want them to get on board with my philosophy of coaching,” Pritt said. “I want them to get fit and increase the difficulty of their dives. I expect to get more than one person to zones and get NCAA qualifiers. We have a long road ahead of us and we will do our best at accomplishing our goals.”

One-Meter Dive Sophomore Meredith Brownell, who set a personal-best score of 291.07 in the one-meter dive versus Iowa State in 2013, is coming back for more action this season. She was a finalist at the Big 12 Championships last year and is predicted to improve this season.

“Coach Pritt and I expect her to continue her development,” Campbell said. “I think she has just begun to scratch the surface on what she is capable of and I think she has a lot more left to accomplish.”

Three-Meter Dive The Jayhawks will look to Golden to be a strong three-meter diver. She finished with a season-best score of 265.28 in the three-meter at the NCAA Zone Diving Championships and finished 43rd overall.

“Hopefully we can push her to the next level of competition so we can get her to go out with a bang,” Pritt said.

Platform This is another strong area for Golden, who finished and 28th overall in the platform competition at the NCAA Zone Diving Championships. Sophomores Brownell and Madeline Martin will also compete in the platform event. Martin set a personal-best score of 143.70 in a dual meet against Iowa State last season.

“Madeline came in last year and she learned quite a bit and worked hard,” Campbell said. “She’s going to have to take it up a notch this year, but I think she’s ready and coach Pritt will help her with that.”

The swimming and diving team will make its 2013-14 season debut on Oct. 12, when they travel on the road to Colorado Spring, Colo., to take on Air Force.