Youthfulness and Talent
Youthfulness and talent is the theme for this year's men's and women's swimming and diving teams. Both teams have a wealth of talent this year - and their youthfulness promises to generate even more talent in the years to come. On both the men and women's side, each has a team of 19 swimmers and divers - the men have a nucleus of 13 freshman and sophomores while the women have a core of 11. However, with all the youth that surrounds the teams, the goal remains the same as last year's and has even grown some. The focuses - defend both Mid-Continent titles, continue to improve in the National Independent Conference meet, and ultimately, compete at Nationals in March.
The women will be the team to beat in this year's Mid-Con and NIC Championship meets after winning both titles in 2001-02. Although the team bears youth, head coach Pete Hovland is confident the team is up for the challenge and ready to defend their titles.
"With some of our new recruits signed, we can make up for our losses and will be ready to swim," stated Hovland.
On the women's side, the biggest loss is perhaps Tamara Swaby - a team captain and former two-time Mid-Con Swimmer of the Year. Hovland is hopeful, however, that with the combination of freshman signees Erin Merideth (BK/IM, Rockford, Michigan), Maria Musialczyk (BR, Grand Rapids, Michigan) and Linda Keskey (Diving, Cokato, Michigan), the team can fill the void and score the points necessary to pick up the loss of Swaby.
"Linda has got a tremendous amount of talent," commented Hovland. "We need someone like Linda to replace lost senior Devon Cunningham - our top female diver the last two or three years."
Another big recruit for the swim team is Line Jenson - who will join the team from Norway in January. She is yet another swimmer who Hovland is hoping will lessen the loss of the seniors.
"Jenson has times that are very competitive - if she lives up to the times that we've seen so far, she'll make up for Tamara's loss," said Hovland. "There is a chance that we'll be even a little big stronger with the conditioning of these ladies."
The top returning swimmers for Oakland this season are Danielle Ward (Sr., Freestyle, Brighton, Michigan), Oksana Strelets (So., Freestyle, Kazakhstan), and Tanya Korniyenko (Jr., Fly/IM, Almaty, Kazakhstan).
A freestyle specialist, Ward will swim every event for Oakland in the pool. Her times in the 200-yard, 500-yard and 1000-yard events will place at the NIC Championships and she will hopefully set personal best records and school records this season. Ward is also key on four of the team's relays. Her top finishing times last year are 24.50 in the 50, 52.17 in the 100, 1:53.23 in the 200, 5:03.85 in the 500, and 10:18.10 in the 1000.
"Our success this year will largely depend on Danielle's successes" commented Hovland.
An NCAA first-time
qualifier, Strelets set a new school record in the 100 free and was only the
third female in school history to be invited to the NCAA's.
Strelets was 20th in the country last year in the 50 free with
a time of 22.99 and finished in the top 20 at the NCAA Championship meet.
"We're hoping to continue to see improvement from Oksana," said Hovland. "With more maturity and experience, we're hoping she will break through and become an All-American this year in both the 50 and 100 freestyles."
A school record holder in the 100 and 200 butterfly, and 200 individual medley, Korniyenko will lead this year's team in these events and will be looked upon to make the NCAA Championship meet. Her best times came at the NIC Championships where she placed first in both the 100 and 200 fly with times of 55.36 and 2:02.22.
"Her times last year were good enough to make NCAA B standards," mentioned Hovland. "And with more improvements this year, she has the potential to go to the NCAAs."
The last of the key returnees, Aurit, was a top two finisher in the 100-yard breaststroke on the team and is the defending Mid-Con champion in the 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 2:17.67.
Headlining the rest of the swimming and diving team are backstroke swimmers Tara Berringer (So.), Renie Green (So.), Jessica Lau (Sr.), and Jordan Longhurst (Sr.).
A native of Eugene, Oregon, Berringer placed first at the Mid-Con in the 100 back with a time of 59.44. She continued to score points for the team at the NIC Championships where she finished first in the 200-yard backstroke at 2:03.22.
Green enters her sophomore year after having a solid freshman start. Her finish of eighth place in the preliminaries at the Mid-Con Championships in the 100 back (56.68) helped the team to their championship title.
A three-year letterwinner for Oakland, Lau will be looked upon to lead the team to this year's Mid-Con and NIC titles. Lau had her best showing at the Mid-Con Championships where she placed fourth with a time of 2:17.06 in the 100 individual medley.
The eldest of the group of backstrokers, Longhurst is a resident of Albion and had her best finish at the Mid-Con Championships finishing fourth in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 1:01.84.
Joining Musialczyk in breaststroke competition is sophomore Lindsay Unrath (Dexter, Michigan). Unrath became one of the top breaststroke swimmers in the Mid-Con last year when she placed second at the Mid-Con Championships in the 100- and 200-yard events with times of 1:06.99 and 2:27.24.
Leading a large group of freestyle swimmers alongside Strelets and Ward are swimmers Kelly Carlin (Jr., Novi, Michigan), Karoline Freytag (So., Kronach, Germany), Holly Miller (So., Ft. Lauderdale, Florida), Christina Moceri (So., Northville, Michigan), and Angela Simetkosky (Jr., Livonia, Michigan).
Carlin is a captain of this year's team and will use her hard work ethic and swimming finesse to help lead the team. Also an established backstroke swimmer, Carlin had her best finish in the 200 free at Miami with a time of 1:59.43 and excelled at the Mid-Con Championships finishing first in the 200 backstroke (2:12.80).
Distance swimmers Freytag and Simetkosky are a core part of the team this year swimming the distances for the Grizzlies. Simetkosky had a breakout year when she had first place finishes at the Mid-Con Championships in the 500 and 1650 frees with times of 5:03.72 and 17:22.90.
Competing in backstroke events as well as freestyle, are Miller and Moceri - who contributed to OU's title championships in 2001-02.
A trio of freshman divers will round out the swimming and diving team. Together with Keskey are divers Andrea Endres (Fr., Marine City, Michigan) and Ashley Wright (Fr., Grand Rapids, Michigan). The three will be relied upon to fulfill the loss of last year's Diver of the Year Devon Cunningham.
Along with youth and talent, the women's team may have a little more depth this year than last. With hard work, training and competition, the team can only improve from last year and achieve their goals.