September 25, 1998
CLEMSON, S.C. – The Clemson women’s swimming and diving team enters the 1998-99 season with high expectations. After ranking as high as 17th nationally by the Coaches’ Association and finishing 35th at the NCAA Championship meet in 1998, the team is prepared to take its success even farther this season.
“The women’s team is a very exciting program to be a part of right now,” said head coach Bruce Marchionda. “This is a team that is moving in the right direction. It is not stagnant, nor moving backwards. We’re looking to break into the nation’s top 15 teams this year and to move up from there. With the returning class that we have and the newcomers coming in, we feel like we’re a much stronger team than we have been in the last decade. We’re looking for great things to come from this team — not only a battle for the ACC Championship, but also to move up in the national rankings.”
Marchionda recalls that Clemson’s depth was a key element in the Tigers’ 1997 ACC title and hopes that Clemson’s depth this year will lead to another title. “In 1997 we had numerous swimmers place in the ACC finals because of our depth factor,” he says. “We have been able to recruit in the right spots to increase our depth and I’m looking for the opportunity to regain the title this year. It’s fun to be a part of a team that is battling for the conference championships each year, and we have come to the point right now where we are a threat every year to win the ACC Championship. Winning it in 1996-97 was a big step in the right direction, and we would like to regain that title this year.”
Clemson returns two All-Americans from last season, juniors Erin Schatz and Jennifer Mihalik, and two all-ACC performers in Mihalik and senior Wendy Henson to lead the team in its quest for its second ACC title in the 1990s.
Veterans Jennifer Mihalik, Kathy Lowry and Melissa Gebhart will lead Clemson in the sprint freestyle events. Mihalik, an All-American last season, posted a 23.32 in the 50 free at the NCAA championships, the third-fastest time in Clemson history. She also holds the third-fastest time in the 100 free (50.50). Lowry enters her senior season ranked fourth in the 100 free with a time of 51.57. As a freshman last season, Gebhart posted the ninth-fastest time in Clemson history with a 51.61 in the 100 free. Newcomers Caroline Peterson and Patty Hider will add to the Tigers’ depth in the sprint events.
In the middle distance events, several veterans will lead the way for the Tigers. Senior Wendy Henson, a 1998 All-ACC performer, holds the third-fastest time in Clemson history in the 200 free (1:47.76) and the sixth spot for the 500 freestyle with a time of 4:49.98. Charli Reasons placed ninth in Clemson history with a 1:50.39 in the 200 free as a freshman last year, just 13 hundredths of a second behind Mihalik. “These swimmers had a great, great year last year,” said Marchionda. “We hope that a couple of rookies or veterans will step up and help out in these events.”
Clemson returns All-American Erin Schatz to lead the distance freestyle event. Schatz finished 16th nationally in the 1650 free last season with a time of 16:33.05 to move into third place on Clemson’s all-time list. She ranks fourth all-time in the 500 freestyle (4:48.46) and finished 23rd at the NCAA championships last season. Senior Stacey Finner is also one of top returners, and Marchionda looks for her to continue her improvement in the 1000 and 1650 to make the distance group as strong as it can be. Freshman Cami Sink will also help out in the distance events.
The Tigers have two new swimmers that will have an immediate impact on the program in the butterfly events. Marchionda believes freshmen Emily Hustead and Katie Mizell could easily post Clemson’s fastest times this season. Junior Kendra Kelly, along with seniors Amy Suppinger and Kathy Lowry are ranked fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively in Clemson’s all-time records in the 100 butterfly. Senior Lisa Bartlett is tenth in the 200 butterfly with a time of 2:03.94. “The butterfly should be a great event for us this year,” said Marchionda, “where last year it perhaps was not a real strong event for us.”
Junior Magdalena Kupiec broke the Clemson 100 breast record with a time of 1:03.49 as a freshman, then just missed qualifying for the NCAA championships last season. Marchionda expects her to get the breaststroke group moving this season. Other key returnees include sophomore Danielle Goetz, who holds the tenth best time in the 100 (1:05.52), senior Amy Suppinger, who ranks seventh overall in the 200 with a time of 2:20.99, and sophomore Lauren Rafferty, who is sixth in the 100 (1:05.03). Freshman Cami Sink, although mainly an IM swimmer, could also represent the Tigers in breaststroke events.
“I look for great things because we have a great pool of talent in the breaststroke events,” said Marchionda. “Hopefully they will push each other in practice, and we will get two of these swimmers to the national championships.”
The backstroke may prove to be Clemson’s strongest and deepest event. The Tigers return all-conference and All-American selection Jennifer Mihalik, who broke the ACC record and the Clemson school record in the 200 back with a time of 1:58.77 at the conference championships last season. Mihalik finished 15th nationally at the NCAA meet, posting a time of 2:00.24. All-American Erin Schatz won the conference championship in the 200 back in 1997 and holds the third-fastest time in Clemson history (1:59.95). Sophomore Charli Reasons holds the sixth-fastest times in both the 100 and 200 back, and sophomore Lauren Rafferty ranks fifth in the 200 and eighth in the 100. Junior Agata Jandowska ranks eighth in the 200 with a time of 2:02.93.
“These five backstrokers will really shine, increasing our depth factor,” said Marchionda. “This could be one of our strongest events, making us a strong force in the ACC and on a national level, as well.”
Senior Lisa Bartlett had an outstanding year in the 200 and 400 IM, ranking second in Clemson history with a 4:21.04 in the 400 IM and third with a 2:03.91 in the 200 IM. Other veteran IM swimmers include Erin Schatz, who holds the sixth-fastest time in the 400 IM (4:22.63), Leslie Anderson and Danielle Goetz. Freshman Cami Sink recently earned an Olympic trial qualifying time in IM events and should increase the strength of Clemson’s IM swimmers.
Clemson will depend on the strong leadership of junior Aly Susterka and senior Summer Ecker in the diving events. Jillian OrRico and Betsy Potter are coming off great freshman seasons and will be pushed by newcomers Michelle Cunnane and Michaela Smith, two high school All-Americans who qualified for Senior Nationals last year. “I hope the freshmen will push this group so that we will move up in the ACC standings,” said Marchionda. “I am looking for the diving program to step up and make a big difference in our victories this season.”
Clemson’s depth was the key to all of the team’s outstanding relay performances a year ago, and Marchionda believes this depth will also be the key in relay performances for the 98-99 season. “With the return of several swimmers who had some of the fastest times in Clemson history and a great recruiting class, we’re looking to challenge a number of the relay records this year and to qualify them not only for the ACC finals, but NCAA competition as well,” he said.
Clemson’s schedule this season is as strong as ever, with the Tigers facing teams from both the ACC and the SEC. “When we face Auburn and Tennessee, it should be an exciting meet,” said Marchionda. “There is not one meet on our schedule that we feel like we cannot go out and win; that’s the kind of team we are,” Marchionda believes. “We can battle with anybody in the country, so we may not win all of the meets, but we will certainly be in the heat of things versus any team in the country.”
“This season should be a stepping stone from the last couple of years. Winning the ACC title, moving more people to the NCAAs, and getting more All-Americans are steps we need to continue to move on, and we really feel that we can do this with our schedule.”
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