Swimming & diving preview: Recharged Rams ready for Northern Arizona
Jan. 17, 2013
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Back in the swing of things
A two-month break from competition during the middle of the season is what CSU swimming & diving Head Coach Christopher Woodard is hoping his team needed to recharge and succeed heading into stretch of the 2012-13 season.
The Rams competed in four meets in a six-week span to start the year, facing some tough competition and battling injuries and inexperience. But he’s optimistic about what he’s seen from his team since.
“We’re a young team, and we struggled with injuries,” Woodard said, “but I think what we’ve seen since then, from top to bottom, is a commitment to make each practice important. We’re not going through the motions. Our team has a great attitude, and we’re trying to get better each day.”
CSU opened the season with losses to Denver and Wyoming in dual meets, and New Mexico, New Mexico State and San Diego State in an invitational tournament. The Rams then finished third in the four-team Tennessee Invitational, with several athletes recording top times and the team scoring ahead of Duke.
“Since the beginning of the season, we focused on our mid-season meet at Tennessee,” Woodard said. “We wanted to have a complete team performance, and several girls stepped up and shattered personal records that weekend.”
About Northern Arizona
The Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona enter this weekend 4-4 on the season after starting off the year 3-0—with wins against Arizona State, New Mexico and Northern Colorado. Unlike the Rams, the Lumberjacks have been in the heavy part of their competition season, taking part in four meets since CSU last competed in mid-November.
Additionally, this weekend will be Senior Day for Northern Arizona’s four seniors, and they’ll be looking to complete a perfect home record this season.
Perhaps Northern Arizona’s best swimmer is Ellie Morrissey, who has the team’s top times for both the 50 and 100 Freestyle, and ranks in the top three on her team in the 200 Freestyle, and in the top six in the 100 Backstroke. Leading the Lumberjacks in the long-distance races are Emma Lowther and Kendall Brown. The pair ranks No. 1 and No. 2 on the team in the 500 and 1000 Freestyle, respectively. In the backstroke events, Fi Connell is a strong competitor, having personal bests in the 100 (56.97) and 200 (2:04.66). In the breaststroke, Jordan Burnes is the team’s top swimmer in both the 100 and 200, and Rachel Palmer is a threat in the butterfly events (57.94 in the 100 and 2:05.49 in the 200).
Fuller looking for a fourth
Senior Breann Fuller, who holds the school record in the 100 and 200 Backstroke events, is in strong position to break more records and earn some respect nationally. In fact, in her most recent swim in the 200 Backstroke, she came within eight-hundredths of a second from breaking her own mark. Head Coach Christopher Woodard says she’s just getting started.
“Breann is absolutely our anchor,” Woodard said. “She’s our best athlete, and I think our entire team is excited to watch her try to regain her Mountain West crown and compete in the NCAA Championships.”
Fuller, who is from Brighton, Colo., and redshirted a year ago, has been the MW champion in either the 100 or 200 Backstroke—or both—all three years of her career and holds several school records.
She currently ranks in the top 30 nationally in both events.
Freshmen making an impact
Ariana Milone guided the diving team during the team’s first competition, back in October, earning Mountain West Diver of the Week honors after her first collegiate meet. She’ll be back on the boards this weekend after missing significant time with an injured hand.
“Having Ariana back is a huge shot in the arm for us,” Woodard said.
However, it’s not just Milone making an impact. Several freshmen are stepping up and playing significant roles, which Woodard says will be absolutely crucial come MW Championships time.
Jessica Shepard currently has the third-best time in the 100 Backstroke, behind only nationally-ranked Breann Fuller. Additionally, Shepard has put up good numbers in the 200 IM, in addition to several relay teams. Also making contributions are Bailey Williamson, Erica Stock and Michelle Hawkins.
On the mend
Despite seeing great strides in the Rams’ most recent meet, the Tennessee Invitational, Head Coach Christopher Woodard’s team is still searching for their first dual-meet win. One of the causes of the losing streak has been the onslaught of injuries and illnesses that have hampered the team this season. Several of the new recruits, who were expected to add considerable depth to the team, have been out since the beginning of the season with injuries. The top diver of the team, Ariana Milone, was injured at the dual meet against Wyoming and has been out since. These injuries, coupled with common sickness, have left the team weaker than expected.
Several weeks without competition over the holiday season has allowed many of the athletes to recover and recharge, which will be important down the stretch.