2005-06 Air Force Women’s Swimming Season Preview
A strong returning cast blended with some talented newcomers has head coach Casey Converse confident his Air Force women's swimming and diving team will have a successful 2005-06 campaign.
"We're a small team in terms of overall size, but we have a lot of good swimmers," Converse said. "Our hope is that we swim well throughout the season and continue to show improvement as we build towards the conference championship."
Leading the way for the Falcons will be the three seniors on the team, Ginny Miller, Carly Omizo and Colleen Smith, all of whom are team captains.
"The strength of our team will be the seniors," Converse said. "They have come up through the program and all three of them have made good progress. They have done a great job of leading by example and I am confident they will lead the way for us."
In the sprint free events, Converse sees freshman Laken Stogner providing the team with a new spark. Sophomore Kallyn Johnson was a distance freestyler a year ago, but has made the switch to sprint free in order to help the team out.
"Laken has looked very good in the early season practices," Converse remarked. "Not only is she quick, but she also manages to maintain her speed throughout her swim."
The mid-distance freestyle events will be anchored by Colleen Smith, who will also leads the Falcons in the medley events. Smith had a breakthrough season as junior for the Falcons, concluding the 04-05 season by cracking the Air Force top 10 in the 200 and 400 IM.
Led by junior Lauren White, the distance freestyle events could be the team's deepest event. White was the team MVP last year as a sophomore and was a first-team all-MWC performer as season ago in the 1650 free. White was also a MWC women's swimmer of the week honoree and ranks in among the Air Force top 10 in the 200, 500, 1000 and 1650 free events.
"I think this going to be a really good year for Lauren," Converse said. "She's far ahead of where she was last year at this time in the early fall."
Sophomore Tiffany Biddle will also be a counted upon to swim well for the Falcons in the distance free events. Biddle ranks 10th all-time at the Academy in the 1000 free and looks to crack the top 10 in the 1650 free this year. Senior Ginny Miller and freshman Colorado Springs native Shelley Rodgers will also add depth to the distance free events.
"Ginny came to our program as a walk-on her freshman year and has really developed as a leader for us and continues to swim better for us every year," Converse remarked. "She's a big success story for us."
The butterfly events will be led by junior Lindsey Kirchhoff. Kirchhoff ranks among the AF top 10 in the 100 fly and will be looking to enter the record books in the 200 fly. In addition to fly duties, Kirchhoff will also see duties in the backstroke events.
"Lindsey has looked very good early this season and we look for her to have a solid junior year," Converse said.
Freshmen Melissa Edwards and Roberta Nitzberg will also be called upon to contribute in the fly events.
The breaststroke events will be another team strength for the Falcons led by senior Carly Omizo and junior Blair Leake. Omizo ranks second all-time at the Academy in the 100 breast and eighth all-time in the 200 breast. Leake is third at AFA in the 100 breast and fifth in the 200 breast.
"Carly and Blair both have a chance to break school records and that is something we're excited about and pushing for," Converse said.
Junior Stephanie Hirst will also swim the breast events and Converse sees her having a standout year as well.
"Stephanie came to us as a walk-on and I expect her to score for us at the conference meet this year based on pure determination," Converse said.
In the relay events, Converse sees his short medley group leading the way.
"We may have an opportunity to break the school relay in the short medley relay and our 800 free relay is looking promising also," Converse remarked.
Converse envisions big things from freshman Jane Hwang, who will swim in the IM, breast and butterfly events.
"Jane's high school time in the 200 IM is under our school record, so I look for her to do well for us."
The diving squad will be anchored by junior diving captain Lauren Bursey and sophomore Danielle Dowds, who returns after missing the second-half of last season due to injury. Sophomores Amy Get and Emily Shanes are coming of solid freshmen campaigns and look to improve upon their rookie seasons.
"Our diving team looks to be much improved, with the return of Danielle Dowds from injury," Converse said. "In addition, diving coach Stan Curnow has added some freshman that will make an immediate impact."
Also joining the divers are freshmen Meredith Leake and Ashleigh Peck. Meredith is the younger sister of swimming teammate, Blair Leake.
In addition to a talented new batch of freshmen, the Falcons welcome back one of their own in assistant coach Capt. Maiya Anderson, who swam for the Falcons' NCAA Div. II Championship teams in 1995 and 1996.
"Maiya was one of the best and toughest swimmers we've ever had here," Converse said. "She was an important part of two national championship teams and is a valuable resource for our young swimmers."
Anderson ranks in the top 10 at the Academy in the 200 fly and 100 breast and has the fastest time ever at AFA in the 400 IM and ranks second in the 200 breast.
The Falcons open their season against New Mexico on Oct. 21 and conclude the season, Feb. 22-25 at the MWC Championships in Oklahoma City, Okla.
"Our goal every season is to do well at the conference championship and this year is no different," Converse said.