Jan. 8, 2014
Complete Meet Notes (PDF)
CSU TO COMPETE IN THREE DUAL MEETS FRIDAY
After nearly two months since their last competition, the Rams return to action Friday for the start of the season’s second half. CSU will face North Texas, Tulane and host San Diego State in a dual-meet format. Despite being away from competition, the team has worked hard to improve over the past seven weeks, practicing in between final exams and the holidays. The Rams departed for San Diego on Monday, giving the team an extra couple of days to train at sea level.
San Diego State enters the meet a perfect 7-0 in dual-meet competition, defeating conference opponents Air Force and Boise State. The Aztecs swimming team has also competed in two invitationals, taking first in both. San Diego State is the defending Mountain West champions.
Tulane is 2-3 on the year, defeating West Florida and Arkansas-Little Rock. The Green Wave finished fifth out of seven in the Phill Hansel Invitational, its most recent competition, Nov. 23 in Houston, Texas. North Texas is 0-3 on the season, and finished sixth in its most recent competition, also in the Phill Hansel Invitational.
Action begins Friday at 11 a.m. MT.
STRONG START TO SEASON
The first half of the season closed with a 2-2 dual-meet record, as CSU defeated Colorado Mesa (309-65) and Northern Arizona (152-148), while falling narrowly to BYU (192-176) and Denver (181-119). The Rams also competed in one invitational, as the swimming team traveled to the Las Vegas Invite, while the divers performed at the Missouri Tiger Invitational, in Columbia, Mo.
“I think all three of our meets this year should give every person on the team some confidence,” Head Coach Christopher Woodard said. “While not every single person hit at every single meet, I think we saw something good from each athlete during the fall.”
The highlight to the season thus far has been CSU’s come-from-behind victory against Northern Arizona. The Rams won in dramatic fashion on the day’s final race.
Heading into the final two events, the Rams knew they had to win both events to take the meet. Jessica Shepard (2:07.09) stepped up to the 200 IM and cut down her season best by more than 2 seconds, beating out NAU’s Rachel Palmer by 3 seconds. In the same event, Alexandra Jacobs (2:11.24) came back from fifth to close the team’s gap even more with her third-place finish.
Trailing by five points entering the final event, CSU needed to take first, in addition to either second or third. The 400 Freestyle Relay cinched the Colorado State win, as the relay team of Karin Roh, Katie Polich, Teagan Griffith and Tess Simpson edged out first with their fastest time of the season at 3:31.11, just milliseconds ahead of NAU.
“It was a whole team effort,” Woodard said. “There were honestly way too many heroes to talk about them all. Jess had a phenomenal meet. Across the board she was able to not only get out early, but come back strong in all her events. Tess showed veteran leadership across the board in all her events, including that last leg of the final relay. Jacobs, in the 200 IM, came back from fifth to third; that really put us in a position where we could put the meet away.”
More from Woodard:
“It was a fantastic meet from start to finish. They didn’t get down. If they went 1-2-3 they got really excited but they didn’t get cocky, and when NAU went 1-2-3 in the 500 Free they didn’t give up. That’s exactly what I want to see out of my team. They’re keeping their heads straight when they’re wining and not folding when they’re losing.”
“Hopefully this win will give them a shot in the arm. I think they saw at CMU that they could come out early in the season and swim well at altitude, but dual meet wins have been few and far between. Having this win against a very tough opponent coming down to the end, I think that gets them charged up and excited about racing.”
SHEPARD NAMED MOUNTAIN WEST SWIMMER OF THE WEEK
Jessica Shepard, a native of Dripping Springs, Texas, competed in four events in a 152-148 come-from-behind win over Northern Arizona on Nov. 9, taking first place in all four. She earned 27 points for CSU with three individual wins, plus 11 points for a first-place finish in the 200-yard medley relay (1:45.90), which she helped CSU lead early with a strong opening leg (26.44).
The Rams were down by 10 points going into the final two events of the meet, and they knew they needed to take first place in both to have a shot at winning. Shepard stepped up to the challenge, winning the 200 IM (2:07.09) to put the Rams within five points. The 400 Freestyle Relay team then edged NAU by 19-hundredths of a second in the final event, in addition to taking third place, to win the meet in thrilling fashion.
In addition to the 200 IM and 200 Medley Relay, Shepard finished first in the 100 (56.87) and 200 Backstroke (2:04.88) events, with season-best times. At the time, the times ranked seventh and fifth, respectively, among Mountain West athletes this season.
The award is the second by a CSU athlete this season. Sophomore Ariana Milone was named the MW Women’s Diver of the Week on Oct. 23. Shepard is CSU’s first MW Women’s Swimmer of the Week since Jennifer Muniz, in 2009.
The Rams opened the 2013-14 swimming & diving season with one of the youngest teams ever to jump in the water. Fifteen newcomers put on the Green and Gold for the first time at the Intermountain Shootout on Oct. 11, matching evenly in numbers with seven sophomores, five juniors and three seniors.
“I think it’s a testament to how hard we worked, as well as how fortunate we were that we were able to land that many very qualified and talented freshmen,” Woodard said prior to the start of the season. “That being said, I think we’re looking more at a four-year process with them. I think we addressed many of the weaknesses in our events, but primarily we are looking at diamonds in the rough, and I think we do have some future diamonds.”
During the season opener, the large freshman class made an immediate impact, as several freshmen took first place or top spots in events. The underclassmen have continued their consistency, holding 12 of the team’s season-top times.
“I feel confident in their abilities to develop,” Woodard said. “I was maybe a little surprised at how fast some people swam in their very first collegiate meet. That’s just all the more encouraging to me that their progress is going to happen at a little faster pace, and maybe with a better end result than we originally anticipated.”
SUCCESS ON THE BOARDS
Although the pool is filled with many young faces, CSU returns intimidating strength on the boards. The Rams opened the season with the same vigor they did in 2012-13 – with then-freshman Ariana Milone winning both events and breaking a pool record at DU en route to being named the conference’s diver of the week.
CSU swept the 1- and 3-meter events with huge margins. Taking first, sophomore Paige Greely had her lifetime best performance in the 3-meter diving event. Already holding the position as the fifth-highest scorer in Rams history, she bettered her record from 285.45 to 287.55.
In the second meet of the season, the diving team was again on fire. CSU swept the placements on the 1-meter boards, with Milone leading the effort (288.08), followed by Greely (268.73) and Mary Kate Hardy (267.60). In the 3-meter diving event, Milone (299.25) and Greely (283.80) again claimed first and second, respectively. Milone’s score was a career best, and ranks fourth in CSU history.
“We should almost be called ‘CSU Diving & Swimming.’ Our diving team is phenomenal,” Woodard said. “Obviously Ariana is at the top of that list right now, but across the board all of them scored at conference. Now we have three newcomers, so we’re very excited to see what they can do.”
In 2012-13, three divers qualified for NCAA Zones, the most by the Rams since 2005 and tied for the second-most in the Mountain West. Already this season, three athletes have qualified (Greely, Milone and Mary Kate Hardy).
The Rams will look to their upperclassmen to lead the new faces on how CSU approaches its dual meets and the proper principles of training. Fortunately, CSU returns several talented athletes, namely seniors Yana Garvey and Madeline Mastrup, junior Tess Simpson, and sophomore Jessica Shepard. All four rank among the fastest athletes in CSU history in their respective events.
“We have very capable scorers in Yana and Maddie,” Woodard said. “We’ll rely on them pretty heavily in dual meets and when it comes time for conference. Tess and Jessica are also a great tandem; they allow us to do a lot of different things. They both know what it takes to reach the finals at conference, and they fill some very important roles for us in dual meets.”
This season the coaching staff — featuring Woodard, head diving coach Kevin Witt, and newly hired assistant coach and former CSU swimmer MacKenzie Brown — are refocusing their efforts to polishing process rather than just its win-loss record. However, the team is still determined to continue to improve and make a mark at the Mountain West Championships.
“Our expectation as a staff is to continue to move up the ladder in the Mountain West, and try to finish at .500 or above in our dual meets,” Woodard said. “But I’m going to get away from that this year and focus more on process than wins and losses. We have to learn how to do things the right way, the right time, if we want to have success in the future.”
The Rams will return to Moby Pool to face conference opponent New Mexico. The Lobos finished just ahead of CSU at last year’s Mountain West Championships tournament. The meet is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. MT on Saturday, Jan. 18. Admission is free, and the senior class will be honored during the meet.