Oct. 7, 2013
FORT COLLINS, Colo. -The Colorado State Rams open the 2013-14 swimming & diving season with one of the youngest teams ever to jump in the water. Fifteen newcomers will put on the Green and Gold for the first time, 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," Head Coach Christopher Woodard said. "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."
Although the pool is filled with many young faces, CSU returns intimidating strength on the boards. From the 2012-13 season opener, it was clear diving was going to be a highlight of the team. Stepping on competitive collegiate boards for her first time, Ariana Milone won both the 1- and 3-meter diving events, breaking a pool record and landing herself as the second-highest scorer in CSU history on 3-meter boards. For this performance Milone was named the Mountain West Diver of the Week.
Though the diving team had to overcome several serious injuries throughout the season, they made an impressive stand at the MW Championships with every CSU diver scoring in the finals. Milone had the highest finish of the diving squad with sixth and 10th place on 3- and 1-meter boards respectively. CSU continued its success and brought its largest NCAA Diving Zones team since 2005, taking three divers: Paige Greely, Milone and Maxelise Thorn.
"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."
The Rams will look to their upperclassmen to lead the new faces on how CSU approaches its dual meets and the proper principals 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 -- will refocus their efforts to polishing process rather than just the 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 open their season with the two-day Colorado Mesa Intermountain Shootout, beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m. MT in Grand Junction, Colo. CSU will then host its home opener against Denver on Saturday, Oct. 19 at noon in Moby Pool. CSU also hosts Northern Arizona, New Mexico and Air Force, and will conclude its season at the MW Championships (Feb. 19-22) in San Antonio, Texas.
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