Oct. 1, 2007
Clemson Swimming and Diving Head Coach Chris Ip is ready to take hold of some national attention with his 2007-08 Men’s Swimming and Diving team. Ip’s fifth campaign features a squad coming off a 9-3 season in 2006-07 and should be in serious contention for the ACC title as well as making some noise in the NCAA Championships. The nine wins are tied for third in Clemson history and the four ACC meet wins were tied for second all-time. The Tigers were a perfect 5-0 out of conference, a Tiger first since 1999-00, and the third time in school history.
The 2007-08 team features two fifth-year seniors, nine seniors, three juniors, eight sophomores and four freshmen. The Tigers return at least one Clemson All-time top-10 swimmer in every swimming event, including school record holders Mark Vahle (50 free) and Attila Ruszka (100 breast). The 2007-08 Tiger squad is loaded with leadership, experience and balance. The seniors are ready to lead this team into the top tier of the ACC and garner national attention. Says Ip, “I’ve been looking forward to this year. We are a veteran group this season. They are really mature, and these eleven men are now leading the rest of the gang.” Ip’s enthusiasm carries over as he talks about the team’s strengths in 2007-08.
Ip says, “It’s a program where we are taking people to NCAA’s, we’re breaking school records, and I’m excited to see what these guys can do. The ACC is very competitive. These guys grasp what they need to do to move up. Captains Attila Ruszka, and Jay Crout, really want this program to improve.” Ip also cited seniors Mark Vahle, Bryce Herrington, and Stephen Russell as important team leaders, and mentioned how integral they are to the team’s success. With solid leadership at the top, the Tigers look to have a great foundation for the underclassmen to build on and learn from.
Balance figures to be another important advantage for the 2007-08 team. In the 2006-07 ACC championships, sixteen out of eighteen men scored for the Tigers. When a team clicks on that many cylinders, it enables them to reach new highs and compete at a national level. The ability to score in many events means that Ip can feel confident in his coaching strategies, knowing that he is deep from the sprints to the diving boards. As Ip put it, “No matter where anyone turns around, there’s going to be a Clemson Tiger there.” The event balance is crucial to the team’s overall success in the ACC and the NCAA.
Another aspect of the team’s balance relates to how the classes interact. The freshman will be expected to contribute along with the veterans. Ip predicts cohesiveness among the upperclassmen and the rest of the team. “We have worked hard as a staff and we have filled the gaps that we may have had with the group that is coming in. The upperclassmen will embrace the new guys. The seniors are going to set the team concept immediately and bring the freshman in right away.”
The new Tigers need not be shy about their contributions. As Ip explains, “The schedule is a tough one. We meet a lot of the strongest ACC teams and we picked up Alabama, another top-20 school. There is no real weak team on the schedule.” According to Ip, the men have embraced this challenge and look forward to taking on some of the nation’s elite week in and week out. The men hope to translate this to consistent performance throughout the season, with high goals set for the ACC and NCAA Championships. “The men’s team is a blue-collar team, and I like that. They’re just hard-working guys.”
Freestyle The Tigers return deep talent across most of the freestyle events. Senior Mark Vahle is a school record holder in the 50 Freestyle, and made some noise at the NCAA meet two seasons ago. Joining him will be an experienced group. Seniors Jay Crout, Bryce Herrington, Matt Balderston and Adam Farnham will all be in contention every meet. This group has the potential to fill up Clemson’s all-time list. Farnham and Vahle are both already in Clemson’s all-time top-10 for the 100 free as well.
The mid-distance free is a solid group this season. Brian Possee will join Herrington and junior Daniel Mengering (eighth on Clemson’s all-time list) in the 200 and all are capable of scoring. Freshman David Gordon will also be in the running for the mid and distance events, and can make this area a true strength of the Tigers. Sean Geary is another outstanding senior who ranks in Clemson’s all-time top-10 in the 500, 1000, and 1650 free events. Sophomores Matt Angelini and Andrew Cunningham reinforce this event that can score everywhere and can pick up huge points in the Relay events.
The Tigers return all four swimmers from the second-fastest 200 free relay team in school history. The Tigers also return most of the parts from their 400 relay team, which ranks second in Clemson history, and Bryce Herrington was part of the 800 relay team which ranks third in Clemson history. The freestyle unit should be one of the top in the ACC and will turn heads come ACC and NCAA meets.
Backstroke Captain Jay Crout leads the strong list of backstroke swimmers on the 2007-08 team. Senior Taylor Thompson has been outstanding in his Clemson career and ranks in the top-10 in Clemson history in the 200 back. Thomas Recko surprised some people last year and recorded the fifth-fastest time in the Clemson history in the 200 back. Sophomores Angelini and Jason Chatlosh will join this core of swimmers and this group should push one another to earn points every meet.
Breaststroke Attila Ruszka, school record holder in the 100 breast, is joined by senior Andy Bergren in the school’s all-time top-10 in both breaststroke events. Additionally, two newcomers will help to push this unit each day. The first is freshman Kyle Shoemaker, who will step in right away and compete in both events. The other is Rutgers transfer Eric Lane, who had very solid times for the Scarlet Knights in 2006-07. Angelini can compete here as well, so the Tigers’ breaststroke unit has outstanding depth and is very fast.
Ip has been pleased with this group and adds, “We will be able to fill the gaps with the men coming in. We were very fortunate to welcome Eric Lane from Rutgers and freshman Kyle Shoemaker can make an impact immediately.”
Butterfly The butterfly is a deep group that can score all the way through. Senior Adam Farnham recorded the top time for the Tigers in 2006-07 in both fly events and also ranks in Clemson’s all-time top-10 in each. Mark Vahle, Brian Possee round out this experienced, solid group. This unit will be able to push one another and is extremely competitive. The fly may end up being one of the Tiger’s greatest strengths in the pool in 2007-08.
Individual Medley The IM returns three all-time Clemson top-10 swimmers in each event in Attila Ruszka. Ruszka is a mere 0.09 seconds from the school record in the 200 IM. The group is steadied by Sean Geary, who had a solid showing last season. “That’s been one of our go-to events in the past, and everybody is back,” noted Ip, who is extremely pleased with what he has seen from these swimmers so far.
The Tigers’ 200 Medley Relay set a school record last season and was third in the ACC meet. They return three swimmers in this area, as well as three from the 400 Medley relay, a squad that lies second in Clemson history. This will be a great opportunity for the Tigers to accumulate a lot of points quickly. It can be one of the keys in catapulting Clemson to the top.
Diving David Giambra and Marco Raye are the two-man show of Clemson Diving. Although they are the only two divers on the 2007-08 squad, Ip and Head Diving Coach Leslie Hasselbach are extremely confident in them. Said Ip, “I am looking forward to seeing these divers. They jumped in pretty quickly last year and they are going to turn some heads in the conference. They are going to open some eyes up. I think they are going to come back strong.”
Hasselbach says of the divers, “They are bringing back some great experience. Marco is still very raw and has unlimited potential. David has been diving for many years and is a true competitor by nature. They have the potential to be in the top eight for us. They definitely made an impact as freshman in the conference and I can see them really moving up. They both really love the sport of diving.”
Both are only sophomores and have time to grow as divers and competitors. They are an integral part of the team and will help to make Clemson’s program one of the most well-rounded in the nation. This group fits in nicely and should score some important points for the team in 2007-08.
In all, there is no glaring weakness for the 2007-08 Clemson Men’s Swimming and Diving Team. Leadership is ever-present and experience is everywhere. There are top-10 swimmers in every event and the divers are poised to make names for themselves. The general attitude has been terrific in the off-season and the Tigers should carry quite a bit of momentum into 2007-08.
Ip summed up the Tigers chances, saying, “The guys are really mature and hungry to the point that they know what it takes to get to the next level. I am very excited with the men. Last season at the ACC meet, having over 80 percent of our guys score, their eyes opened up. We belong here. We belong in the upper echelon of the ACC and the NCAA.”
The Tigers look to make a splash this year and continue their assault on the record books. The 2007-08 Men’s Swimming and Diving team has all of the parts it needs to perform on a national level and has national prominence in sight.
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