Men & Women Poised and Ready for Season of Victories
Oakland Universitys mens and womens swimming and diving teams raised the bar and set new standards in 2002-03. And with the returning swimmers and divers to each squad, not to mention the quality of recruits to debut with the Golden Grizzlies this year, both teams will be looking to raise the bar even further in 2003-04.
Last year was the most successful year for the swimming and diving program at Oakland since the school turned Division I four years ago. Both teams were represented at the NCAA Championships where the mens team, who traveled a squad of five, scored 17 points to finish 27th; and the womens team, captured their second consecutive National Independent Conference title. In addition, both teams captured their fourth consecutive Mid-Con Championship titles. As if the program hasnt already achieved enough in the span of four years, head coach Pete Hovland continuously pushes his team to reach new standards for 2003-04.
After such a great finish to the 2002-03 season I cant wait to get the 2003-04 season off the ground and running commented Hovland. Winning the Mid Con and NIC titles again last year along with establishing 10 new school records, numerous Mid Con, NIC and pool records were the pay-off for all the hard work, sacrifice and dedication the team and staff put in last season. Having Danielle Ward invited to NCAAs (100/200 freestyle) was the icing on the cake. The only thing left unaccomplished from last season was to have one of our relays invited to NCAAs. Hopefully the emptiness from having our 400 freestyle relay finish with the 14th fastest time (the NCAA takes the top 13 relays in each event) will drive us to be even better this year.
Last years teams were both young and fully stacked and this year is no exception. Combined the teams have 42 swimmers and divers a total of 27 of those athletes consist of sophomores or freshman. On the mens side, the 21 member squad has 15 underclassmen, while the women have 12. With the incoming youth and returning experience, this years teams are bound to heighten the successes from last year.
Heading this years lineup of female butterfly swimmers are senior Tanya Korniyenko (Almaty, Kazakhstan) and freshman Melissa Jaeger (Ann Arbor, Michigan).
Korniyenko is one of Oaklands top returning swimmers. In 2002-03, she was named both Mid-Con and NIC Athlete of the Year after breaking two Mid-Con records and setting pool and school records in the 100 fly (55.15) and 200 fly (2:00.08). She will be looked upon to help lead the team in the pool to reach the NCAA Championships in College Station, Texas.
Alongside Korniyenko will be newcomer Jaeger. Jaeger is a highly celebrated All-America and All-State freshman who hails from Michigan and will be looked upon to be one of the swimmers of the future for Oakland. As a senior captain in high school, Jaeger won the state championships in the 100 fly and swam on the relay team that set a new high school national record.
The quad of Shelly Aurit (Batavia, Illinois), Lindsey Unrath (Dexter, Mich.), Maria Musialczyk (Grand Rapids, Mich.) and Amanda Burwell (Akron, Ohio) bring a nice mixture of youth and experience to the breaststroke contingent. Aurit, a senior first team All-Mid-Con in 2002-03, is the top returning breaststroker for Oakland. With consistent first place finishes in both the Mid-Con and NIC championships over the last two years, she will be looked upon to help lead the womens team to their third NIC title.
Unrath is the sole junior out of the four and will be expected to improve upon her finishes from last year. As an All-Mid-Con member last year, Unrath swims both the 100 and 200 breast and continually finishes in the top five in her races.
Musialczyk was last years Mid-Con 100 breaststroke champion (1:07.51) and first team honoree. Hovland expects she will show continuous signs of improvement over this year as she did throughout her freshman campaign.
Joining this years breaststroke team is Burwell, one of this years top freshmen. An Ohio native, Burwell has strong club and high school backgrounds where Hovland expects she will be ready to step in and compete at the collegiate level.
Highlighting Oaklands individual medley swimmers this year will be sophomore Line Jensen (Silkeborg, Denmark). Jensen burst onto the scene during the second half of the season last year where she broke two school records in the 200 IM (2:02.38) and 400 IM (4:24.77). Throughout the three months in which she competed, Jensen finished first place three times and was always amongst the top five in each of her races.
Complimenting Jensen for depth in the waters will be junior Tara Berringer (Eugene, Ore.), sophomore Erin Meredith (Rockford, Mich.), Aurit, Burwell, Jaeger, and Korniyenko. Both Berringer and Meredith are backstroke specialists but will also be looked to help anchor the IM team. Aurit and Korniyenko will be looked upon to strengthen the squad and newcomers Jaeger and Burwell are both very versatile athletes who succeeded in the IM event at high school.
Berringer and fellow juniors Renie Green (Dearborn, Mich.) and Holly Miller (Ft. Lauderdale, Fl.) will be expected to lead the backstroke group for Oakland. Berringer, a first team All-Mid-Con selection last season, captured both Mid-Con and NIC titles in the 100 and 200 backstroke events. Miller had a top finish at last years NIC championships where she ended up in third place. Both her and Green will be expected to step up and use their leadership roles to help the team.
Also strengthening the Golden Grizzlies in the backstroke event are Meredith and freshman Jenna DeJonge (Zeeland, Mich.). Meredith was named second team All-Mid-Con after finishing second place in the 200 backstroke final. DeJonge is expected to be a mainstay for Oakland with her strong high school background. She was one of the top backstrokers and freestylers in the state of Michigan during her high school career.
Perhaps one of the strongest assets to Oaklands womens swimming and diving team is its delegation of freestyle swimmers. The group consists of eight swimmers five of which are returning and four of whom were named first team All-Conference in 2002-03. Leading the group is senior Oksana Strelets (Kazakhstan) who is the school record holder in the 50 free with a time of 22.99, set in 2002. During that same year, Strelets was just the second female swimmer in the programs history since turning Division I to compete at the NCAA Championships where she finished 19th in the 100 free (50.35).
Backing Strelets in sprint freestyle events will be freshmen Tracy Caruss (Royal Oak, Mich.) and DeJonge, sophomore Jensen, and junior Miller. All four swimmers will be expected to contribute in both the individual and relay events.
Leading the group of mid-distance and distance freestylers are senior Angela Simetkosky (Livonia, Mich.) and junior Karoline Freytag (Kronach, Germany). Simetkosky had a breakout year in 2002-03 where she set Mid-Con records in the 500 free (4:59.29) and 1650 free (17:08.66) on her way to being named first team All-Mid-Con. She also won both the 500 and 1650 free events at the NIC championships swimming season best times of 4:56.86 and 17:00.91 respectively.
Freytag became a mainstay in mid-distance and distance swimming last year. She finished in third place in both the 500 free and 1650 free at both the Mid-Con and NIC championships. She also swam a leg in the 200 free relay (1:32.62), 400 free relay (3:21.23), 800 free relay (7:26.57), and 200 medley relay (1:43.43) which set new OU Aquatics Center Pool Records and school records.
Freshmen Nicole Metcalf (Shelby Twp., Mich.) and Burwell will be the final members of the distance freestyle group. Both swimmers will be expected to contribute to the distance teams and provide great versatility and depth to the squad.
Four divers make up the diving team for Oakland in 2003-04. Three returning swimmers Linda Keskey (Cokato, Minn.), Andrea Endres (Marine City, Mich.), and Ashley Wright (Grand Rapids, Mich.) are all sophomores who gained valuable experience last year and will be expected to contribute even more in the coming season.
Keskey, the Golden Grizzlies top diver, was named Mid-Con Diver of the Year for her performances on all levels of boards last year. She finished first place in both the 1 mtr. (6) (390.40) and 3 mtr. (11) (479.10) boards at the Mid-Con Championships and at the NIC championships, she finished second on the 5 mtr. platform while setting a new school record of 321.70. As a result of her performances, she was named first team All-Mid-Con.
Endres and Wright both had successful seasons during their freshman campaigns and played an intricate role in helping the team capture both the Mid-Con and NIC championship titles. Endres was a third place finisher at the Mid-Con championships on the 1 mtr. board and along with Wright, will be expected to improve their contributions to this years team.
Rounding out the diving team is freshman Liz Herrington (Battle Creek, Mich.). Herrington will be looked to strengthen the diving team and play a role in helping capture the Mid-Con and NIC championship titles.
When looking at this years team, and you take in to account that we lost arguably the greatest freestyler in school history (Danielle Ward) to graduation, you cant help but wonder how we could possibly surpass last seasons success stated Hovland on the womens program. However, with a another year of experience, the bitter-sweet taste from last year, and the addition of a very talented corps of freshmen, surpassing last seasons accomplishments is exactly what I think this team is prepared to do.
Both the mens and womens swimming and diving teams will be looking to continue the winning traditions in which many of the current athletes have helped record. With the desire of the swimmers and divers, and the perseverance of the coaches, theres no doubt that the 2003-04 season will bring no less than the greatest expectations.