Golden Grizzlies Look to Ride the Wave

The Oakland University women’s swimming and diving team is coming off a sensational season that saw the Golden Grizzlies capture the Mid-Continent Conference Championship and finish second in the National Independent Conference Championship. OU lapped the competition in the Mid-Cons scoring 1068 points with Western Illinois finishing second with 592. Oakland scored 608 points in the NICs and finished 118 points behind Cincinnati.

"The girls are coming off a strong season," said head coach Pete Hovland. "We have some key personnel back and are looking to repeat last year’s success."

The Golden Grizzlies return 18 letterwinners to help pave the way for the new recruits.

"It is always tough for a team when a whole new staff comes in," said Hovland. "I am excited about taking over and I think my 22 years of experience, plus the closeness of these two teams, will give us a chance to perform well."

These Golden Grizzlies are different from past OU swimmers. They all swim in numerous events and provide depth for one another.

"We have versatility," said Hovland. "A lot of these girls have not gotten a chance to prove themselves and I think they will do a good job when given this opportunity."

These swimmers will get their opportunity against a schedule that will see the likes of Cincinnati, Ohio State, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.

"Stepping up and swimming teams that are better than you gives you a chance to better yourself," said Hovland. "We have an attractive schedule that will give us a chance to repeat our performance from a year ago."

Oakland will bring in Eastern Michigan, Toledo, Cincinnati and Bowling Green into it’s new facility along with hosting the Mid-Con Championship and the NIC Championship.

"It is exciting for these girls to swim against this caliber of teams in front of their home crowd," said Hovland. "We bring teams in like this so we can show-off our facility and prove that we are a top Division I program."

The Golden Grizzlies, guided by a new coaching staff in 2000-01, will be led by the team captains this season.

"With a new staff coming in these girls will look to their captains to lead the way," said Hovland. "We are going through an adjustment period and our tri-captains are doing a good job getting these girls ready."

The returning letterwinners include tri-captains Yvonne Lynn (Plymouth/Salem), Megan Cagney (Kalamazoo/Central) and Laura Sorley (Indianapolis, IN/Decatur Central).

Lynn is a sprint freestyler and a backstroker for the Golden Grizzlies. She took second place in the 100 back (57.26) at the NIC Championships and finished third in the 200 back (2:04.49).

Cagney is a freestyler for Oakland and placed seventh in the 100 free (56.38) at the Mid-Con Championships. She finished eighth in the 500 free (5:23.94) and 10th in the 200 free (2:02.16) at the Mid-Cons.

Sorley is the top returning diver for OU. She finished the one-meter diving in fifth place with a score of 338.10 at the Mid-Con Championship and placed third in the three-meter diving with a score of 404.00.

Heading up the freestylers is sophomore Danielle Ward (Brighton/Brighton HS). Ward set two school records last year in the 500 free (4:56.52) and the 200 back (16:57.95). Helping Ward in the freestyle events will be junior Heather Kelly (Trenton/Trenton) and sophomores Jessica Lau (Troy/Athens), Anita Stefonovic (Shelby Twp./Eisenhower) and Sheryl Wrobel (Walled Lake/Walled Lake Western).

Kelly scored 47 points in the Mid-Con Championship which ranked her fifth on the Golden Grizzly squad. She took third in the 400 IM (4:41.36) and placed fifth in the 1650 free (18:13.58) at Mid-Cons.

Lau swims distance events for the Golden Grizzlies and scored 45 points for OU last year at the Mid-Continent Conference Championship. She placed fourth in the 500 free (5:14.73) and the 400 IM (4:43.58) at the conference championship. Swam the 1650 free (18:01.41) at the NIC Championships and finished in 14th place.

Stefonovic earned six points for Oakland in the Mid-Cons last year and was a major contributor to the relay teams. She will help out in the relays and will swim the sprint freestyle in 2000-01. Wrobel will swim the 50 and 100 freestyle events for the Golden Grizzlies. She swam the 50 (25.60) and 200 free (2:05.04) in exhibition heats at the NIC’s last year.

Freshmen Angela Simetkosky (Livonia/Churchill HS) and Kelly Carlin (Novi/Mercy HS) will round out the freestylers for the Golden Grizzlies. Simetkosky will swim the 500 and 1650 freestyle events and will be an immediate contributor to this Golden Grizzly squad. She was a state finalist last year for Livonia Churchill in the 500 free.

Carlin was a former High School All-American from 1996-1999 and won the Class A State Championship in 1998. She will help out Oakland in the sprint freestyle events and will add depth to the middle distance events.

The breaststroke event will look to senior Veronika Frolova (White Plains, NY/Harrison) and junior Kristen Lesnau (Troy/Poseidon S.C.). Frolova finished third at the NIC Championship in the 100 breast (1:05.72) and placed eighth in the 50 freestyle (24.24).

Lesnau was selected first team All-Mid-Con last year after earning 43 points for the Golden Grizzlies. She finished first in the 200 breaststroke (2:28.73) and third in the 100 breaststroke (1:10.68) at the Mid-Con Championship.

Juniors Sara Harley (Rockford/Rockford S.C.), Marla McKenzie (Livonia/Livonia Spartan A.C.) and sophomore Jordan Longhurst (Albion/Albion HS) will help senior captain Yvonne Lynn in the backstroke event.

Harley finished in third place in the 100 back (1:01.59) at the Mid-Con Championship and earned 40 points for OU. McKenzie scored 39 points for the Golden Grizzlies in the Mid-Cons. She finished third in the 100 back (1:02.86) and the 200 back (2:15.11). Longhurst swam the 100 and 200 backstroke at the NIC’s and finished ninth in the 100 (1:00.96) and 13th in the 200 (2:11.28). She scored 42 points in the Mid-Cons with a fourth place finish in the 200 back (2:14.57) and sixth in the 100 butterfly (1:02.52).

Junior Tamara Swaby (Kingston, Jamaica/Broward CC) and sophomore Jennifer MacDonald (Bloomfield Twp./Mercy) solidify the butterfly events for Oakland.

Swaby finished eighth in the 100 fly (59.03) at the NIC Championships and finished first against Bowling Green in the 200 fly with the top time of 2:09.55. She injured herself last season and missed the Mid-Cons but will be ready to compete in this years conference championship.

Freshman Shelley Aurit (Batavia, Illinois/Rosary HS) will help out in the individual medley event. She captained her high school squad in her senior year and was elected All-State, All-American in 1998 and 1999. Named All-Conference all four years and set a state record in the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:46.

The divers behind Sorley are senior Devon Cunningham (Tecumseh/Tecumseh HS), sophomore Leslie Purucker (Concord/Albion) and freshman Katie Livingston (Trenton/Trenton HS).

Cunningham sat out last year and looks to head up the divers at the Mid-Con and NIC’s. She took first place in the NIC Championship in the one-meter diving (11 dives) in 1999 and won the Golden Grizzly Invitational in the three-meter event.

Purucker placed fifth in one-meter diving (6) with a score of 209.18 against Toledo and took seventh place in three-meter diving (6) with a score of 207.00.

Livingston is a newcomer to diving and looks to use her gymnastic background to help her adapt to the board. She placed 10th in regionals for Trenton High School.

Oakland will use a combination of young talent and elder veterans to continue the success started last year. The captains will set the pace and let the younger athletes ride the wave they start all the way to the conference championships. With some improvement throughout the season, the Golden Grizzlies hope to repeat the performance a year ago.

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