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Swimming & diving preview: CSU set for Mountain West Championships

With their most wins in four seasons, the Colorado State Rams have high expectations for the 2013-14 Mountain West Women's Swimming & Diving Championships, held Feb. 19-22 in San Antonio, Texas. Live streaming for all events is free.

With their most wins in four seasons, the Colorado State Rams have high expectations for the 2013-14 Mountain West Women's Swimming & Diving Championships, held Feb. 19-22 in San Antonio, Texas. Live streaming for all events is free.

Feb. 14, 2014

Preview (PDF) | MW Championships Central | Live Streaming

2013-14 MOUNTAIN WEST WOMEN'S SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS
FEB 19-22, 2014 | SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS | PALO ALTO AQUATIC CENTER

Over the past five months every sprint, stroke and dive has been in preparation for four days that will define the Rams’ season. The four-day Mountain West Championships will be the finale to the 2013-14 season, and will be filled with daily perseverance, obstacles and well-earned victories. The Rams travel to San Antonio, Texas, for the Championships, Feb. 19-22 at the Palo Alto College Aquatic Center.

CSU enters the Championships with its best dual-meet record and first winning season (6-5) in four years, something the coaching staff attributes to the team’s focus.

“This is the first year that we really didn’t do team goals, and part of that was a conscious effort by the coaching staff to preach process over results,” Head Coach Christopher Woodard. “What I expect to see is their best swims of the season. Not only on the scoreboard with their times, but really the way they approach their races. If they’re doing the things that we’ve worked on and laid out all season, if they are really hammering out in the back half, and if they’re not making mistakes I think that’s going to be more important to our long-term growth as a team.”

Despite the team’s success this season, the Rams know the Championships will be a challenge. Three of their opponents handed them losses earlier this season, in addition to last year’s runner-up Boise State and conference newcomer San José State. The Spartans are coming off of seven straight dual-meet victories, while San Diego State, Wyoming and Boise State are receiving top-25 votes.

“With San José State coming in, the conference is now a lot tougher,” Woodard said. “I expect our girls to walk in with their heads held high with a little bit of a swagger and realize that the work that they’ve done this year should have them in a position to get it done, but they have to make the conscious decision to execute their race plan to get in the top 8, 16 or 24.”

LIVE STREAMING AVAILABLE
For every event – both prelims and finals – live streaming will be available, free of charge, through the Mountain West Network.

Additional information – including heat sheets, records, highlight video and more – can be found through the Mountain West Championships Central page online.

SUCCESS IN MOUNTAIN WEST

While the Rams have struggled as of late, they have one of the most storied histories among all Mountain West teams. In the league’s 14-year history, CSU has five top-three finishes (2000-04) – including coming in second place three times (2001, 2003 and 2004).

Further proving CSU’s deep history in the MW is its dual-meet record against the nine other current members. The Rams’ combined record against those foes stands at 115-27 (.810). Just two teams (Boise State, 2-1; UNLV, 6-5) have winning dual-meet records over CSU. The Rams hold commanding advantages over several teams, including Air Force (21-3), New Mexico (31-2) and Wyoming (41-9).

The Rams haven’t finished in the top five at the Championships, however, since 2009, including seventh out of nine teams last year.

SOMETHING TO PROVE
Despite the team’s best regular season in four years, the Rams still have something to prove. Voted on by the league’s 10 head coaches, CSU was picked to finish last, earning 16 points in the pre-championship coaches’ poll. Boise State earned 10 first-place votes and 78 total points, followed by last year’s champion, San Diego State (four first-place votes, 75 overall).

Wyoming, San José State, Nevada, UNLV, New Mexico, Air Force, Fresno State and Colorado State round out the poll.

A LOOK BACK AT LAST YEAR’S CHAMPIONSHIPS
CSU’s athletes were at their best at last year’s Championships. Of the 22 events, a CSU athlete posted the team’s top time of the season in 19 of them.

Breann Fuller (100 Backstroke, second; 200 Backstroke, third), Erica Stock (100 Breaststroke, fifth), Ariana Milone (3-Meter diving, sixth) and Madeline Mastrup (1650 Freestyle; eighth) each placed in the top eight, earning All-Mountain West recognition.

Additionally, five school records were set.


 

 


DUAL-MEET SEASON RECAP
The Rams were able to triple their dual-meet win total from a year ago and achieve their season goal of finishing the season above .500. With a 6-5 record, CSU had its strongest dual-meet season since 2009-10, when the team went 8-2 overall.

The team’s biggest conference victory came on Jan. 18, defeating New Mexico, 185-113. The Rams swept three events and locked the Lobos out of first and second in three others. With the victory, CSU improved to 31-2 all-time against New Mexico, and avenged its loss to the Lobos from a year ago, the Rams’ first since 1993-94.

CSU had another big day on Jan. 10, earning a pair of dual-meet wins over North Texas (220.5-79.5) and Tulane (223-76). CSU fell just short against undefeated San Diego State, 149-137.

Perhaps the most exciting win, however, came at home on Nov. 9, as CSU defeated Northern Arizona, 152-148, during the final event of the day.

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.

CSU finished the regular season with seven dual-meets in 23 days, in addition to a diving invitational. The Rams were more than ready for a break, and have been able to taper over the past couple of weeks leading up to the Championships.

SUCCESS ON THE BOARDS
From the beginning of the season CSU has had intimidating strength on the boards. Sophomore Ariana Milone has twice been named the Mountain West Women’s Diver of the week, and CSU has shined bright each meet, generally winning by a large margin. The Rams should be able to count on several of their divers to score points at the Championships.

The diving squad has been consistently breaking CSU’s highest scores. In the team’s meet against New Mexico on Jan. 18, Milone scored 294.08 on the 1-Meter springboards, second-best in CSU history. In the team’s meet at Wyoming on Jan. 25, Paige Greely scored a personal-best 304.58 on the 3-Meter boards. This score also placed her name as the fourth-highest performer in CSU history.

Along with Milone and Greely, junior transfer Melissa Bollig and junior Mary Kate Hardy have qualified for NCAA Diving Zones. 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.

“We should almost be called ‘CSU Diving & Swimming,’” Woodard said. “Our diving team is phenomenal. Obviously Ariana is at the top of that list right now, but across the board all of them scored at conference last year. Now we have three newcomers, so we’re very excited to see what they can do.”

RACKING UP WEEKLY HONORS
The Rams earned back-to-back Mountain West Women’s Swimmer/Diver of the Week honors in January, totaling four on the season. The four weekly accolades is the program’s most since the 2002-03 season.

CSU’s most-recent recognition was earned by sophomore Jessica Shepard on Jan. 22, her second of the season. Shepard helped CSU to a 185-113 victory over New Mexico, winning the 100 Backstroke (56.94) and 200 IM (2:10.04). On the day, the sophomore from Dripping Springs, Texas, also took second in the 200 Backstroke (2:05.97) and led off the 200 Medley Relay team, which finished second (1:45.39). In total, Shepard contributed 26 points in the team’s victory. She was also honored on Nov. 13.

Diver Ariana Milone also earned two weekly awards this season. Her second honor came after her performance in three dual meets at San Diego State on Jan. 10. The native of The Woodlands, Texas, won six events in three dual-meet competitions, earning first place on the 1-Meter and 3-Meter boards against North Texas, San Diego State and Tulane. The six top finishes – out of six possible events – helped CSU pick up dominating victories over North Texas (220.5-79.5) and Tulane (223-76). The Rams fell just short against undefeated San Diego State (149-137), the reigning Mountain West champions. Milone earned a score of 267.50 on the 1-Meter springboard and 290.95 on the 3-Meter. Both are NCAA Zone Qualifying scores. As a team, CSU swept the 3-Meter event, and took first, second and fourth in the 1-Meter. Milone was also recognized on Oct. 23.

YOUNG FACES
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. These young faces have proved to be instrumental to the Rams’ success this season.

“We were so senior heavy last year that I don’t think some of the underclassmen felt like they were really expected to step up in leadership roles or in more of a contributing manner in dual meets,” Woodard said. “But this season I think they’re growing into that. I think they’re starting to emerge on their own and form their own identity.”

The large freshman class has out-performed expectations and made an immediate impact. Underclassmen have been relied on to consistently place first in their individual events throughout the season. Season top times for 12 of the 17 individual events are led by freshmen or sophomores. In the 200 Freestyle and 400 IM the top five performers are all freshman.

The Rams will depend on the underclassmen as much, if not more, at the Championships. Twelve of the 20 scoring athletes going to the Championships will be underclassmen.

“I’ve seen it play out both ways,” Woodard said. “I’ve seen some freshmen come in and get stuck like a deer in headlights and kind of freeze up; the expectations are too high from the staff, themselves or their team, or they just are not ready to perform yet because they’re still in a developmental stage. I’ve seen other freshmen come in and blow the doors off, perform lifetime bests, get themselves in a scoring position and really make a name for themselves. It’s hard to say how it will play out for us, but our freshmen overall have great attitudes, and they just want to race and race well.”

UPPERCLASSMEN TALENT
While heavy on the underclassmen, several veteran athletes – namely seniors Yana Garvey and Madeline Mastrup, junior Tess Simpson, and sophomore Jessica Shepard – have contributed in the pool this season. 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. 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.”

LOOKING AHEAD
Although the Championships are the culmination for the season as a team, at least four divers will represent the Rams at the NCAA Diving Zones March 13-15 in Colorado Springs, Colo. If a diver scores high enough – or a CSU swimmer qualifies at the Championships – the Rams also may be represented at the NCAA Championships March 20-22 in Minneapolis, Minn.

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