2009-10 Air Force Women's Swimming and Diving Outlook
Oct. 10, 2009
The 2009-2010 season opens an exciting era for the Air Force women's swimming and diving team. With a major pool renovation project underway next year and talented athletes in the freshman and sophomore classes, an appropriate motto for the team during the coming two years is "Under Construction."
In addition to building new dryland training facilities, team locker rooms and enhancements to bulkheads, as well as installing a video replay scoreboard, the Falcons will see a change in the coaching staff as well, as they welcome assistant coach Carrie Ellis. Ellis comes to the Academy team by way of several of the top swim programs in the country. Most recently, she competed and coached as a graduate student at the University of Alabama while earning her master's degree in Exercise Science. An All-American as an undergraduate at Florida State, Ellis swam on the USA National team at the Short Course World Championships in England in 2008.
"I am thrilled to have Carrie join our staff," said Air Force women's head coach Casey Converse. "She brings a wealth of swimming experience at the very highest levels of competition. In addition, as part of the staff at both Alabama and Florida State, she has seen how some great teams put together championship seasons."
While the Falcons face a stout challenge in adapting to the loss of seven-time all-conference performer and multiple school record-holder Jane Hwang to graduation, the team will look to its upperclassmen for their experience and leadership.
"Anytime we have a team that reaches beyond its potential and becomes more than the sum of its parts, it is because of great leadership in the senior and junior classes," said Converse. "Although relatively small, these two classes will lead the way in influencing what we believe is a very bright new era for our team."
Five members make up the senior class, including diver Chelsea Tompkins, the Falcon's lone returning all-conference performer. Tompkins placed on the platform at the 2009 MWC Championships to earn the first all-conference accolades of her career, and will look to repeat this season.
Team captain Katelyn Hunter returns with the team's fastest times in the 100 backstroke. A former soccer player in high school, she decided to swim at the Academy and has evolved into a steady high-level performer, leading off the Falcon's medley relays the past three years. Classmate Becky Gleason returns from her most successful year ever with lifetime swims at the conference meet last year, recording Academy top-10 marks in both the 200 butterfly and 400 IM.
"Becky and Katelyn have been leaders on this team for the past two years," said Converse. "They are both off to a great start this season as well. I look for them to break into scoring position at the MWC meet this year. They set extremely high goals for themselves, which they back up with the highest level of work ethic."
The junior class includes three swimmers, led by Denver native Kaeli Kluesner. After a strong freshman campaign in which she posted top-10 marks in both the 200 backstroke and 400 IM, Kluesner struggled with illness last year. Still, she recorded the team's top mark in the 200 back and was one of the Falcons' top performers in both IM events, improving upon her 400 IM top-10 mark.
"Kaeli was sick off and on with mono last year--in fact she had mono at the Nike Cup last year, but it did not get diagnosed until the week after we returned from the meet," said Converse. "Even so, somehow she managed some great swims in November, including a lifetime performance in the 200 backstroke. I look for her to return to form this year. She has a real chance at a couple of our team records, which will put her in a good spot for scoring at the conference meet."
Esther Kim returns as a member of last year's 200 free relay team. A sprint free and fly specialist, the team will look to her for leadership on relays and in the sprint events. Caitlin Teresky rounds out the class as one of the Falcons' distance specialists.
This year's sophomore class, which includes nine athletes, made quite an impact last year as freshmen. Both Alison Ceranski and Cassie Fletcher emerged as two of the Falcons' top sprinters, contributing to a school-record performance in the 400 freestyle relay. Fletcher also notched an Academy top-10 mark in the 50 freestyle, while Ceranski remains close to breaking into the top 10.
Elvira Chiccarelli proved to be one of the team's top butterfly specialists, leading the team in the 100 fly, and recording Air Force top-10 times in both butterfly events. Katharine Ernst also made her mark in the 200 butterfly, posting the eighth-fastest time in school history in the event. Meanwhile, Colorado Springs native Jenna Dolata was one of the Falcons' top breaststrokers during the 2009-10 season and could lead the team in the event this year.
Other swimmers in this year's sophomore class include Lauren Delaney, Heather Ireland and Rachel Reeder. Meanwhile, Lauren Shetley, Air Force's top performer on the 3-meter springboard last season, completes the two-woman diving team.
Finally, nine swimmers from the freshman class will look to make an impact on the Falcons' 2009-10 season. Among the standouts is Haley Holcombe from Snellville, Ga., who competed at the USA Nationals in December. She is expected to make an impact in the butterfly events this year, as well as the IM.
Katrina Castellanos, a native of Roseville, Calif., who attended the Prep School last season, is also a butterfly and medley specialist, while Rosie Mayou of Derby, Kan., will provide much needed help in the breaststroke.
Meanwhile, Rachel Roberts (Eagle River, Alaska) and Alexandra Trobe (Pittsford, N.Y.) will make an impact on the distance events, while Lauren McGuire (Douglasville, Ga.) and Shelby Schaefer (Roseville, Calif.) will add depth in the sprint events.
With such a young team, the Falcons will need to take full advantage of their schedule in preparation for the biggest meet of the year--the Mountain West Conference Championships. Events that will help Air Force prepare for the end of the season include the prestigious Nike Cup in mid-November, as well as the always challenging conference dual slate.
If the Falcons' returners are able to continue their improvement throughout the next season, while the newcomers make an immediate impact, Air Force could see great things in the 2009-10 season.