The Seattle University women's swim team will start the 2012-13 season this weekend on the road, first facing Washington State in Pullman, Wash., Friday, Oct. 12, starting at 5 p.m. before a meet against new conference foe Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, Saturday, Oct. 13, beginning at 12 noon.
Despite losing some top swimmers to graduation, head coach Craig Nisgor is very happy with the state of the program heading into its first season in the Western Athletic Conference. After about a month of practice, Nisgor is eager to see how the team performs in competition against a strong lineup of teams, starting with back-to-back weekends on the road.
"The girls should be confident in what they are doing. They have been putting the work in, but now is the time to show that hard work off and race," said Nisgor.
The distance freestyle events will be led by junior Whitney Dean (Campbell, Calif.), who posted times in both the 1000 free and 1650 free good enough to make the all-time top ten lists. Freshman Allie McGavock (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) has posted solid times during the practice sessions and is expected to make a contribution to the team's success.
In the middle distance events (200 free and 500 free), Bethany Gehrke (Lynnwood, Wash.) and Megan Kelley (Las Vegas, Nev.) will lead the way, with Karla Ruff (Seattle, Wash.) and Rachel Leighter (Eugene, Ore.) adding the 200 free to their repertoire.
The sprint freestyle events (50 free and 100 free) will feature returners Nicole Doi (Pleasanton, Calif.), Melanie Frey (Seattle, Wash.), Allison Grubb (Kalispell, Mont.), and Melissa Randolf (Everett, Wash.), all of whom are swimming as fast as, if not faster than, they were swimming at the end of last season. They will be joined by freshmen Stephanie Bayless (Spokane, Wash.) and Arianna Sapp (Silverdale, Wash.), both of whom are already coming close to personal best times.
Senior Kevlyn Richards (Gig Harbor, Wash.) has renewed confidence and bigger goals after qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials last summer. She will be joined in the breaststroke events by Ruff, sophomore Caroline Van Maren (Bellevue, Wash.), and freshman Dilynn D'Agostino (Gresham, Ore.).
Kelley and Randolf will lead the Redhawks in the butterfly events, but they will be pushed by freshman Jane Liggett (Portland, Ore.), as well as senior Megan Robinson (Salt Lake City, Utah), who has been swimming faster than she was at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season.
Leighter is the school record holder in the 200 backstroke and currently has the second-fastest time ever in the 100 backstroke, plus she will have the support of sophomore Mackenzie Gant (Richland, Wash.) and freshman Tiffany Dang (Bothell, Wash.) in the backstroke events.
At last year's conference championships, Gehrke set the school record in the 400 individual medley, while Richards posted the third-fastest time in the 200 individual medley. Gant and Ruff will also look to help the Redhawks in the IM events during the year.
Leighter, Richards, and Ruff have taken their roles as this year's team captains very seriously, bringing everyone together and creating a team atmosphere from the first day of practice. The expectations for the squad have been raised, and the coaches are looking for fast times from this weekend's meets right through to the end of the season.
Seattle U will face strong competition this weekend, starting with the Washington State Cougars, who feature nine upperclassmen on their current roster. The Redhawks will then have a quick turnaround before the Idaho meet, as the Vandals already have one competition under their belt in which sophomore Rachel Millet won three events.
Besides Idaho, Seattle U will also face CSU Bakersfield and North Dakota, conference affiliate members in women's swimming and diving, in dual meets during the 2012-13 campaign. The Redhawks welcome Simon Fraser, British Columbia, Pacific Lutheran, and Whitworth to the Connolly Center for home meets this year.
Nine schools make up the Western Athletic Conference in women's swimming and diving this year: CSU Bakersfield, Denver, Idaho, New Mexico State, North Dakota, Northern Colorado, Northern Arizona, San Jose State, and Seattle U. The 2013 WAC Championships will take place at the Palo Alto Natatorium in San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 27 to March 2.