The Clemson women’s swimming and diving program is experiencing a bit of a shift in focus this season. In its final season of existence in its current form, Head Coach Christopher Ip has stated that it is his goal to give each individual member of the team as much attention as he and his staff can so that everyone can have a positive memory of the season.
Ip will be counting on a slew of returners to pace the team, which took strides toward maturity last year after featuring a strong core of sophomores that are now prepared to lead in the pool and in the classroom as juniors.
“I am confident that the dedication of the women who have stayed with the program will flow over to their willingness to take on new events and fill our gaps,” he said. “We just need our academic focus to flow over to the pool.”
FREESTYLE The sprint freestyle events will be in good hands, as a pair of experienced returners will pace the Tigers. Junior Meg Anderson, who ranks in the top four in school history in both the 50 and 100 free, and senior Maddie Tarantolo will lead the attack, along with sophomore Jenny Erickson.
A pair of juniors will be the go-to swimmers in the middle distance events. Kristen Redmond and Kelsey Krauss will join sophomore Alisha Cervone to take on those roles. Redmond was a mainstay atop the leaderboard in both the 200 and 500 free last season and should remain there. Krauss will compete in multiple events, but she performed especially well down the stretch last season in the 100 and 200 free.
The Tigers will approach the distance freestyle events with a pair of veterans in junior Tori Cervone and senior Kerry McLaughlin. Cervone competed in a team-high eight events last season, including four different freestyles. McLaughlin saw some action in the 1000 free last season, while sophomore Rocky Raybon was also a regular member of the rotation in the distance freestyle events last season.
BACKSTROKE There will not be a more experienced lineup on the Clemson women’s swimming and diving team than this group. Seniors Kelly Fowler, McLaughlin, and Deanna Piper will do the bulk of the work for the Tigers in the backstroke, with sophomore Ali Polhill getting some repetitions in the sprint events.
Fowler currently sits in seventh place in school history in the 100 back and is coming off of a top-20 ACC finish in the event. McLaughlin joined the all-time Clemson list with an impressive swim at the ACC Championships. Polhill also etched her name into Clemson lore with the sixth-best 100 back swim in school history and won the 100 back at five meets last season.
BREASTSTROKE Much of the load in the breaststroke will fall onto the shoulders of senior Garrison Stevens, who has proven herself more than capable of handling the task. Tarantolo will also contribute in the breaststroke.
Losing Elizabeth Savage to graduation cost the Tigers a great deal of production. But Stevens was a consistent swimmer in both the 100 and 200 breast last season and is poised to take on her newly-expanded role. Tarantolo saw action in the 100 breast five times last season.
BUTTERFLY This could be considered one of the deepest units on the team. Senior Sarah Bechard, junior Kelly McGee, and Raybon will form the core of the butterfly team for the Tigers this season. Ip will also count on Krauss, Tarantolo, and Polhill to perform well in the sprints.
Bechard won the 100 fly twice last season and is on the school’s top ten list in both the 100 and 200 fly. McGee and Raybon were utilized extensively in the 200 fly last season, and both gained confidence as the season wore on. Tarantolo is in the top five in school history in the 100 fly, and Polhill posted a top 20 finish in the event at the ACC Championships.
INDIVIDUAL MEDLEYTori Cervone will be the lead swimmer in this group. She has posted top three Clemson times in both the 200 and 400 IM, and she has her sights set on the top spots this season. She will be regularly joined by McLaughlin and McGee in these events, along with occasional contributions from Tarantolo, Polhill, and Raybon.
Cervone posted three combined victories in these events in 2010-11, and McLaughlin set personal records in both the 200 and 400 IM last season. The others saw limited action in the individual medleys, but Ip has confidence that each can claim a spot in the rotation.
DIVING Five newcomers will litter the women’s diving program this season. Jessica Doolittle, Chelsea Uranaka, and Emily Yoder will try to infuse some life into a group that already contains some of the best divers in school history. Seniors Brooke George and Cassie Self, junior Elizabeth Tatum, and sophomore Emily Howard return to form a formidable combination.
All four returning divers find their names on Clemson’s all-time list in both the one-meter and three-meter. George leads the pack, as she is now the school’s top three-meter diver in history. Contributions from this experienced and talented group should be numerous.
February 15, 2019