Saturday, August 22, 2009

Swimming expects ‘interesting’ year

Hammered by the graduation of nine seniors, coach Campbell reloads with whopping 13 newcomers


In 18 seasons of college coaching, Kansas University women’s swimming and diving coach Clark Campbell never has seen anything quite like this.

Sure, Campbell has lost athletes to graduation and been asked to reload the following year. But never before has the ammunition for a new season been made up of so many new bullets.

Gone from the 2008-09 team are nine seniors who contributed mightily at each meet. In to replace them is a group of 13 newcomers and 17 returning swimmers. The combination figures to make the 2009-10 season exciting, if nothing else.

“It’s going to be an interesting year,” Campbell said. “We were hit hard by graduation, and we brought in 13 new freshmen. To say that they are going to be useful is a big understatement.”

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Campbell said he and his staff — diving coach Eric Elliott and assistant coaches Jen Fox and William McDavitt — were energized by the task that lies ahead.

“I’ve never had this ratio of newcomers to upperclassmen,” Campbell said. “It’s definitely going to be a great challenge, but they’re a good group. They’re good kids to start off with, and it’s always fun to watch the newcomers learn and the veterans lead. Our entire staff is looking forward to this new group. It’s always fun to do something new, and this is definitely new.”

Sprinters Erin Goetz (senior) and Amanda Maez (junior) are two of the top returners to watch this year. Goetz was a member of the school-record breaking 200-, 400- and 80-yard freestyle relay teams at the Big 12 Championships last season.

Also on the list of returners-to-watch are: junior Iuliia Kuzhil, who owns the school record in the 100 and 200 backstrokes; sophomores Abigail Anderson and Stephanie Payne, who set the meet record in the 400 individual medley at the Big 12 Championships; and senior diver Megan Proehl, who missed qualifying for the NCAA Championships by one point a season ago.

This offseason, Campbell and crew bulked up the difficulty of the Jayhawks’ schedule. This season, KU will face Southeastern Conference juggernauts Florida and Arkansas, as well as Pac-10 power UCLA, all on the road.

“We definitely had an upgrade in schedule this year,” Campbell said. “Which is good. I think it helps everyone grow up quicker.”

The Jayhawks open the 2009-10 season with an Alumni Meet on Sept. 18 and officially will kick things off with the Big 12 Relays in Columbia, Mo.

Despite the unique make-up of this year’s roster, Campbell said the team’s goals would not change.

“One of our team goals is always to have a winning record in duals,” he said. “And our No. 1 goal, as always, is to peak at the Big 12 Championships. That’s where we want to make a statement and get our NCAA qualifiers.”


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