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Women’s Swimming To Combine Experience With Youth

Aug. 31, 1999

The Clemson women’s swimming and diving team is looking to take its success to an even higher level during the 1999-2000 season. The team achieved a 17th-place national ranking from the Coaches’ Association last season and finished tied for 36th at the 1999 national championships. The addition of 15 freshmen to the group of 16 veterans brings high expectations for the coming year.

“Obviously, we are very excited about the freshman class,” said head coach Bruce Marchionda, now in his sixth season at the helm of the Tiger program. “This is perhaps the strongest recruiting class from top to bottom that we have had here in the past decade. We are looking for this recruiting class to set the standards and move the program forward.”

Marchionda has set two goals for the team this season: to challenge for the ACC Championship and finish among the top 20 teams at the national championship meet. “With the experienced nucleus of swimmers coming back and the strong freshmen coming in, the blend could be good enough to place us in the top 20 at nationals. It will be a difficult road to win the ACC Championship, because both North Carolina and Virginia are returning very strong squads and have also added very good recruiting classes, however, I feel we will be in position to battle it out with these teams for the title.”

FREESTYLE In the distance freestyle events, the Tigers will depend on several newcomers to fill a void that was left by the loss of All-American Erin Schatz to illness last season. Freshman Courtney Ellis (Seattle, WA) has already recorded a time of 9:52.00 in the 1000 free, which is faster than times any Clemson swimmers have recorded the last two seasons. Rookies Liz Dwors (Fort Lauderdale, FL) and Catherine Blaney (Columbia, SC) will compete in both the distance and middle distance events. “With the addition of these three freshmen and the return of sophomore Emily Hustead, the distance events could turn into a strong suit for us, whereas last year these events were a weak spot for us,” said Marchionda.

The middle distance events could prove to be the strongest events for Clemson this season. Senior Meg Davis returns to lead the group after having an outstanding season in the 100 and 200 free (1:51.14 at the ACC Championships) last year, and Hustead will again compete in the 500 free. “The addition of freshman Jessica Diebel (Jacksonville, FL) and Sarah Keyes (Cincinnati, OH) along with Blaney, Dwors and Ellis will strengthen the team in these events,” said Marchionda.

Junior Leslie Anderson and sophomore Caroline Peterson return in the sprint free events. Anderson recorded some of the team’s fastest times in the breaststroke and IM events last season and will make the move into the sprint free events for the 1999-2000 season. Freshmen Jenna Burtch (Holland, MI) and Erin Heitz (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) will be added to the nucleus of returnees. “Anderson and Peterson both came on strong at the end of the year last season, and Burtch is coming in with the potential to set some of the fastest times in Clemson history in the sprint free events,” said Marchionda. Other freshmen that will add to the team’s depth in the sprint events include Krystal Ball (King George, VA), Allison Moore (Palm Beach Gardens, FL), Amber Odvody (Lincoln, NE) and Elise Tieler (Harbor Township, NJ). “In the freestyle events, we’re going to be very strong up and down the list from sprints to distances,” said Marchionda.

BUTTERFLY Marchionda will look to several veterans to lead the team in the butterfly events after the graduation of Lisa Bartlett, Amy Suppinger and Kathy Lowry . Sophomore Katie Mizell recorded the fastest times of the season for the team last year in the 100 fly (55.99) and 200 fly (2:02.45) events. Along with Mizell, Marchionda expects Hustead and senior Kendra Kelly to take a major role in the fly events this season. “Senior Erin Cumbie has worked her way up to being a mainstay in the butterfly for us,” he said. Other veterans who could fill the spots are sophomore Ginny Kirouac and Peterson in both fly events and Anderson in the 100 fly. Marchionda believes that three freshmen, Mary Brewer (Greensboro, NC), Meghann Clifford (Charlotte, NC) and Thieler, will be important in the fly events this season.

BACKSTROKE The Tigers have won seven ACC titles in backstroke events over the last four years. With the graduation of Jennifer Mihalik, the 1999 ACC Champion in both the 100 and 200 backstroke, Clemson will depend on both veterans and newcomers to keep the Tigers’ stronghold on these events at the conference meet. Sophomore Ninz Douglas scored in both events at last season’s ACC meet, placing 14th in the 200 back (2:06.38) and 15th in the 100 back (59.17). Kirouac competed in the backstroke last season, recording a season-best of 2:03.53 in the 200 back at Virginia. Junior Charli Reasons may return to the backstroke events this season after swimming the events as a freshman, then moving to the middle distance and sprint free events last year. Junior Lauren Rafferty has been competing in the breaststroke, but may be called on to make the move to backstroke. “We are also looking for rookies Ball and Brewer to make an impact in these events, along with a few of the returnees so we can continue the tradition we have established in the ACC,” said Marchionda.

BREASTSTROKE “We have an outstanding group of breaststrokers coming in,” said Marchionda. Keys and Mandy Commons are both breaststroke specialists from Cincinnati, OH. Commons has recorded a time of 1:02.3 in the 100 breast, already a second faster than the Clemson record. Freshman Courtney Ellis (Edmonds, WA) has an Olympic trial cut in the 200 breast stroke. Several veterans will complete the Tigers’ breaststroke group. Rafferty led the team in the 100 breast last season with a time of 1:05.17, and junior Leslie Anderson has competed in the events the last two seasons.

INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY The individual medley will be an important event for Clemson this season. Anderson ranks 10th on Clemson’s all-time list after recording a time of 2:06.08 in the 200 IM at the 1999 ACC Championships, and Kirouac holds the 10th position on the school’s all-time list in the 400 IM with a time of 4:25.06. “Hustead and Rafferty should also help set this group apart in the ACC,” said Marchionda. Freshmen Commons and Ellis will complete the Tigers’ IM swimmers.

RELAYS Clemson returns two swimmers, Davis and Peterson, off the 200 free relay team that set the school record with a time of 1:32.53 at the ACC Championships last season. “Our relays should be very interesting because we have a lot of depth to choose from,” said Marchionda. “I can list 14 swimmers that have a legitimate shot of competing on the relay teams.” After the group’s strong showing last year, Marchionda believes the team will qualify the 200 free relay team for this year’s national championships.

DIVING Veteran divers Aly Susterka, Betsy Potter and Michaela Smith were among the leaders in the ACC last season. Potter finished third in the three-meter competition with a score of 426.25 and sixth on the one-meter board with a score of 349.70 at the conference meet, while Smith placed seventh in the one-meter competition (341.95) and eighth in the three-meter competition (387.90). Susterka finished ninth on the three-meter board with 368.35 points at the meet. Marchionda believes freshman Amy Tolley (Bristol, VA) will help set even higher standards for the diving program this season.

SCHEDULE Clemson opens the season at home against defending ACC Champion Virginia before facing state-rival South Carolina in Columbia. “We will find out early in the season exactly where we stack up against some top teams in the nation,” said Marchionda. “Our schedule this season will be an outstanding one. We will compete mostly against teams that rank among the top 25 in the nation, so it will be a real test for us.”

The Tigers will then face Eastern Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan in East Lansing, MI. “These will be some of the strongest teams in the country,” said Marchionda. “This meet will be a good chance to show the Tigers that they can compete with the best in the country.”

The early half of the schedule will be based around the Georgia Invitational, where Clemson will work to gain national qualifying times. The second part of the schedule will be centered around ACC dual meets, plus dual meets against Alabama and Virginia Tech.

“This season should be a stepping stone from the last couple of years when we began to lay a foundation,” said Marchionda. “Winning the ACC Championship in 1997 was a good step, and now we want to continue to battle for the ACC Championship and move more people to the NCAA Championship. We are prepared to show others that Clemson swimming and diving is definitely on the move.”