2004-05 Air Force Women's Swimming & Diving Season Outlook
Oct. 19, 2004
With a strong senior class backed by a solid core of junior and sophomore returners, the 2004-05 Air Force women's swimming team looks to turn some heads in the Mountain West Conference. Although small on numbers with just 16 swimmers and four divers, head coach Casey "KC" Converse feels his team more than makes up for it in talent and desire.
"The team is one of the smallest we've ever had here, but it's a great group," Converse said. "They're training extremely hard right now and we're probably as good as we've ever been in terms of fitness level in the preseason. We haven't had an NCAA qualifier in awhile, but we have two or three swimmers who are working towards that level."
"The strongest part of the team is our seniors," Converse said. "Some of our top performers over the last few years have been the seniors and they have worked hard and have continued to improve."
A new wrinkle added to Falcon swimming regimen this year is the training emphasis on specialty groups, which each coach--along with the men's team coaches--train ing specific groups, giving the Air Force swimmers more individual-specific instruction and training.
"I think the specialty groups will truly help our swimmers gain more out of each practice so I'm excited about that," Converse remarked.
The distance group will also be one of the team strengths, led by the sister tandem of Julienne and Lauren White. Julienne, an All-MWC selection last year, ranks among the top six all-time at AFA in four different freestyle events. Lauren, a sophomore, has the seventh-fastest 500 free time at the Academy.
Junior Ginny Miller continues to show steady improvement and will be called upon to swim the 500 and 1650 free. Freshman Tiffany Biddle, the Minnesota High School State Champion in the 500 free, will also provide depth. Fellow freshman Kallyn Johnson will also be called upon to contribute.
Another team strength will be the butterfly events, led by sophomore Lindsey Kirchhoff and senior Lara Styles. Kirchhoff is coming off a solid freshman campaign earning second-team All-MWC honors in the 100 fly. Styles has the second-fastest 200 fly time at the Academy and was also All-MWC in the 200 fly and 200 free events.
The sprint freestyle group will look to offset the loss of 2003-04 team MVP Carly Baxter, as the team returns several candidates looking to step up this year. The sprint swimmers will be led by senior Andrea Hyma and freshman Rachael Miller. Also showing the ability to swim sprint-free events are seniors Lindsay Jansen and Styles and sophomore Kirchhoff.
Leading the backstroke events will be Jansen, Rachael Miller and Hyma.
Junior Carly Omizo and sophomore Blair Leake will be the top swimmers in the breaststroke events. Leake looks to improve upon a stellar freshman year where she cracked the Academy's top six in the 100 and 200 breaststroke. Omizo ranks fifth all-time at the Academy in the 100 breast and was a consolation finalist in the event at the 2004 MWC's. Sophomore Stephanie Hirst will also be called upon to contribute.
"Blair had a great freshman year," Converse said. "Our goal is for her to own or be near the 200 breast record at the Academy this season."
Handling the medley events will be junior Colleen Smith. Smith is currently eighth all-time at the Academy in the 400 IM and is a two-time MWC All-Academic selection.
The Falcon diving squad will be young and untested as three freshmen join sophomore Lauren Bursey, the lone AFA diver with any collegiate diving experience. Joining Bursey will be freshmen Danielle Dowds, Amy Get and Emily Shanes.
"The divers are very young and we'll have to see how they compete at this level," Converse remarked. "Diving coach Stan Curnow is very pleased with their abilities and is looking forward to watching them gain experience."
The Falcons begin the season at the Sun Belt Classic and will also take part in the Big West Shootout and Speedo Cup. Air Force will have its winter training camp in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and then resume Mountain West Conference dual-meet action.
"Last year was our first year training at Jay Fitzgerald's club at Pine Crest," Converse said. "What a fabulous time we had there. We had lots of good training sessions with swimmers from all over the country and the world. I love our training camp situation -- all we worry about is training. Swimming in a long course outdoors in the sun for 10 days is fantastic."
The Mountain West Conference championships then conclude the season Feb. 23-26 in Oklahoma City, Okla.