Sept. 28, 2012
Air Force women's swimming & diving looks to continue its upward rise at it enters the 2012-13 season. With a large returning group, added to another strong freshman class, head coach Casey Converse is confident he has the right mix for another successful season.
Air Force returns its fastest swimmers in every event but the 50 free from a successful 2011-12 team that went 13-3 in head-to-head competition.
"This group has a chance to be one of the better teams at the Academy since the early 1990s," Converse said. "For the first time in awhile, we are going to have swimmers that can score in every event for us, which hasn't been the case for us the past few years. We're going to be a little lean in the sprint-free events, but have gained some depth in the distance free events which we really haven't had in the past."
With the success last season, the Falcons have also ramped up their schedule, competing against tougher competition and taking on more events. The Falcons will find out how good they are right away, as the team faces a busy opening month of October with five events on the docket.
"Our schedule is going to be tough early on, but I look for our swimmers to be up to the challenge," Converse said. "It will definitely make the team tougher in the long run as we get ready for the conference championships. October is going to be an intense month for us. We'll know a lot about our team right away, especially opening against a conference opponent in New Mexico. Swimming against Idaho and Wyoming in November will also present good challenges for us as we prepare for the Houston Invitational to cap off the Fall slate. We'll regroup in January and start preparing for the conference championships and the Colorado Senior Open."
Air Force also welcomes a key addition in new assistant coach in Colleen Murphy, who comes to the Academy with very accomplished credentials.
"The addition of Colleen is huge for our program," Converse said. "She brings some big-time credentials to our program, being a three-time NCAA Div. II Coach of the Year. She's brings valuable coaching experience to our team and is a great resource for our swimmers."
The team captain will be senior Haley Holcombe. Holcombe is one of Air Force's top butterfly and medley swimmers.
"Haley will be our team captain this season," Converse said. "We've brought in some great swimmers these last few years and Haley has led the way. So she was the perfect fit in regards to leading this team and has been up to the challenge. She is complemented by a strong senior group, aided by Rosie Mayou and Alexandra Trobe."
According to Converse, Air Force will be strong in the backstroke, breaststroke and medley events. The Falcons return junior Samantha Laughlin and sophomore Kim Davis, who combine to hold five of the six school records in the back, breast and medley events. Laughlin owns the school record in both back events, while Davis owns the school 200 breast and both medley records. In addition, Davis became Air Force's first female swimmer to make the U.S. Olympic Trials, doing so in the 200 meter breast.
"Sam is coming off a tremendous sophomore season and is training extremely hard for us right now," Converse said. "She will also swim some sprint-free for us, but she has the chance to be even better in the back events for us this season. Kim gained some valuable experience in getting to train for the Olympic trials. Getting to compete there will only help her development as a strong swimmer."
"We lost our top sprinter, Cassie Fletcher and another solid sprinter in Alison Ceranski, to graduation," Converse said. "We're a little lean there, but have a solid group we look to step up this year."
The distance free group is much improved with the addition of freshman Sara Menke. In addition, sophomore Clara Heffernan, junior Michelle Kuyper will see action in the 1000. Junior Erin Bleyl and freshman Olivia Strom, in addition to Heffernan will be the top 500 free swimmers for Air Force.
"With the addition of Sara, we have a swimmer that can score well for us in the 1000 free," Converse said. "She's already swimming at a high level and will most likely crack our school top 10 list."
Laughlin and Bleyl will anchor the backstroke events. The juniors are first and second all-time in both the 100 and 200 back events. Ireland will also swim some back events in additon to freshman Brooke Wheeler and junior Liz Harrison.
The breaststroke events will be led by Davis and Mayou. Davis is the school record holder in the 200 breast and Mayou is a school top 10 performer in both events. In addition, sophomore Noel Niccum and senior Katrina Castellanos bolster a strong group for the Falcons. Freshmen Leah Weber and Madelyn Huttner will also swim some breast events.
The butterfly events will be anchored by junior Gabby Aranda and Holcombe. Junior Elizabeth Keenan and freshmen Jenna Tasic and Wheeler will also swim some fly events as well. Aranda and Holcombe are both rank in the school top five for both fly events.
The medley events, especially the 200 IM, will also be a team strength. Davis is the school record holder in both the 200 and 400 IM and Aranda and Holcombe are both ranked in the school top five. The Falcons have further depth in the medley events with returning senior Castellanos and the addition of freshman Huttner.
"The 200 IM might be our strongest event," Converse said. "Freshman Madelyn Huttner has been swimming lights out in practices and has been right up there with Kim. Gabby and Haley have also been strong in the medley events as well."
Converse feels the team has room for improvement in the relay events. After setting school records in all four relay events two years ago, the Falcons fell just short of setting records a season ago.
"We didn't have one relay swim that met our expectations last season," Converse said. "That's something we're working very hard at. On paper, we're looking good in the relays, but we won't really know until we get in the pool and compete."
The diving team has added depth with the addition of three freshmen. Sophomores Lainie Long and Jeanne Nolan and junior Rachel Kennedy return. They are joined by freshmen Zoe Van Wirt, Jessica Horn and Summer Getty.
"The goal for the team is to move up in the conference standings at the Mountain West Championships," Converse said. "We have some tough early-season competition. We hope those meets prepare us for the back end of the season as we make the push towards the conference championships."