Falcons To Compete At Early Bird Invitational
Oct. 23, 2003
The Air Force men's swimming and diving teams travel to Fort Collins, Colo., this weekend to compete in the Early Bird Invitational at Colorado State Univ., Saturday Oct. 25. The Falcons enter this weekend's competition 1-0 after a swim against Navy, Oct. 3, where the Air Force men's and Midshipmen's swim teams met for the first time in the history of the two service academies. The Falcons downed Navy, 167-133.
The team is coming off its highest conference finish in history. The 2002-03 Falcons were Mountain West Conference runners-up in both the regular season and at the championship meet. Air Force is ready to claim the MWC Championship in 2003-04.
"Last year was an incredible season for our program, but we still haven't reached our goals," said men's swimming head coach Rob Clayton. "Anything short of a conference championship is unacceptable for 2003-04."
In order to win the MWC, the Falcons will have to dethrone conference champion BYU. Concerning the Cougars, Clayton added, "BYU's team will be tough. They graduated many top point-scorers, and I'm not familiar with their recruiting class. They recruit heavily overseas, so their roster is always a mystery. We can be sure that they will remain the team to beat in our conference, though."
Leading the charge for the Falcons will be the strongest swimming class in the history of Air Force swimming & diving. Says Clayton, "Since the Class of 2004 first stepped into the program, we've been talking about winning the MWC. They've led us in conference scoring for the past two seasons. This is the year to win the championship. There is no tomorrow."
The 2003-04 version of the Falcons will boast great depth, with top returners in each of the disciplines. "We appear to be very well-balanced as a team, with huge strengths in the stroke events and distance freestyle," said Clayton. Leading the top backstroke corps in the MWC, team captain Paul Brehm has won conference titles five times. Brehm, along with sophomore Charles LeBeau and junior Evan Parr are 1-2-3 on the USAFA all-time top 10 list in the 100 backstroke. Joining these three is freshman Justin Lapin, who is expected to be at the top of the MWC in the IMs and backstrokes.
In the 100 butterfly, senior Eric Pounds looks to lower the school-record time he posted last season. He will also challenge for a MWC title in the 200 butterfly. Classmates Rory Peterson and Mason Phelps are conference scorers in the 200 butterfly. Clayton's enthusiasm over the butterfly swimmers spills over. "With our experience, we could put four or five swimmers in the top 10 of each butterfly event at the MWC meet. Assistant coach Capt. Matt Davis brings a wealth of experience to share with the butterfly swimmers. Our senior swimmers are ready for an incredible season, and I expect sophomores Patrick Vandam and Charles LeBeau to build on outstanding freshmen campaigns and break out with some huge swims."
The breaststroke events will be bolstered by the addition of freshman Andrew Bergman, who won the Washington State title in the 100 breaststroke last season. Bergman joins Nick Burton, who had an outstanding freshman season.
The diving team returns veterans Ben Chapman and Doug Hulse. "Obviously, with six of the 12 MWC divers on our team, the divers made a huge contribution to our finish at conference last season," added Clayton. "They scored a bunch of points. Hopefully, we can see a similar contribution from Coach Curnow's men this season." Freshmen Dan Phenicie and Cory Smith will round out the Falcon diving program.
With the Class of 2004 leading the way, this season looks to be the best ever for Air Force swimming and diving. Understandably, Clayton has a hard time containing his enthusiasm. "This is a great time in the history of our program. This could be our finest hour. The men are ready to do that which no other team has done-win a Mountain West Championship Their determination gives great reason to hope that we can achieve this lofty goal."