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Swimming & diving begins season Friday

Senior captain Celes Parks

Senior captain Celes Parks

Oct. 10, 2007

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FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- The Western Athletic Conference meets the Mountain West Conference at Moby Pool Friday. The Rams will begin the 2007-08 season with the Boise State Broncos at 5 p.m. Admission is free to the public.

The Broncos' swimming and diving team hosted its inaugural meet in January of this year, marking the third season for Boise State. Boise State made progress last season gaining best times and school records at the WAC Championships in February. With a newly signed recruiting class, the Broncos will bring variety from all over North America to Moby Pool on Friday.

2007-08 CSU season outlook

There will be only 20 seats on the bus to DIA, when Colorado State embarks for Oklahoma City and the 2008 Mountain West Swimming and Diving Championships. Coaches will take only 20 athletes. Until then, the team will devote every ounce of energy and focus toward determining those 20 representatives.

The road to Oklahoma City begins Friday, when a mixture of youthful enthusiasm and leadership will start the season. The Rams enter the year with a team full of talent, made up of seven seniors, two juniors, 11 sophomores and 11 freshmen. The contenders came knowing that they would have 157 days to train their way onto that bus.

"Those are 20 coveted slots," 28th-year Head Coach John Mattos said. "Each athlete will have at least 17 competitive opportunities to let her swimming and diving potential do the talking."

In addition to those competitions, Mattos and diving coach Kevin Witt will look for key intangibles in filling out that 2008 championship team, including attitude, team camaraderie, athletic potential, pride, and most of all, passion for their sport.

And, Mattos said, CSU returns only 14 of the 20 athletes who represented the Rams at last year's MWC championships. That presents a clear goal for a group of underclassmen loaded with talent. At the very least, six new athletes will go to those championships for the first time.

"There are no guarantees," Mattos said. "We'll take only the 20 best athletes. And for those 20, there's plenty of food for thought as they look across the conference and set their individual goals."

That's because the MWC's nine championship teams from last year lost a collective 40 athletes to graduation, and the Rams lost just three. No question, CSU will have a lot of opportunities to score points at conference this year. Looking only at the 200-and-under freestyle races, for instance, more than half of the conference's 2006-07 finalists are gone.

"Who knows," Mattos said. "Maybe we've got some future MWC champions on this team that will also be rewarded with an NCAA invite."

If that is to happen, it probably would result from the Rams' youth pushing their experience.

The experience comes from a group of invaluable seniors led by team captains Tara Staley (fly/free) and Celes Parks (distance free) who have both been mainstays for the Rams the past three years. Divers Elyse Hall and Karin Knudson will lead the way on the springboards and platform as they have every year since they were freshman. Sara Servold (fly/IM), Sam Johnson (sprint free), and Kristie Bowdler (1 and 3m springboards) round out a senior class that is filled with leadership, experience and the desire to continue to keep excelling with their athletics and academics.

CSU also will draw leadership from a small but experienced group of juniors, including Annsley Lujan (breast/IM) and Stephanie Meyer (back). These two are crucial to the Rams ultimate team success at MWC's in Oklahoma City in late February.

Colorado State's youth comes from a strong base of underclassmen, as 11 sophomores and 11 freshmen have raised the team's level of expectations. The sophomores will be led by Jen Muniz, Gisella Cianci, Mari Anna Loftness, Nora Kennedy, Kathleen McCleary and Val Maldonado, who combined for 201 of the teams 408 points scored at MWC's last season. Their continued improvement this year can only serve to enhance the Rams' chances for a Top 3 team finish at the 2008 conference championships. Nikki Kelley also returns after reaching the finals on the three meter springboard the first day of last year's MWC Championships, quite a feat for a freshman. Molly Myers (back), Shaelen Quigley (breast), Sara Snyder (sprint free) and Lindsay Borman (back) round out this talented and focused Sophomore class who have truly "raised the bar" for the Rams swimming and diving aspirations.

In addition, a large group of freshmen surely will pave the way for success. The class is highlighted by prep All-American swimmers Nicole Lynch (breast, free and back), Emily Molzahn (sprint free/fly) and Charlie Swearingen (sprint-mid free). Also, Fort Collins' own Poudre High School graduates Maddie Gamble (distance free/back) and Michelle Price (back/sprint free) should make their presence known, as should sprinters Mei Ratz (fr/bk) and Kim Freeman (br/fr). Divers Jacqueline Bibee (Washington) and Cori Swango (Colorado), each captured 5A 1-meter diving state championships in high school. What's more, Kelly O'Brien (back) and another Fort Collins native, Denae Hazlett (diving), have a chance to really improve the Rams team depth.

With underclassmen accounting for more than 70 percent of the team, the future for CSU Swimming and Diving looks bright indeed.

That trend isn't an accident, either. In nearly three decades guiding the Rams' aquatic efforts, Mattos annually recruits a large group of youth. His goal is to bring out the best in his upperclassmen, through spirited, season-long bouts of competitive like swimming and diving in the training pool. This combination of youth and experience not only produces great performances in the pool, it also promotes lifelong friendships. And, after all, isn't that what sports participation at any level is all about?




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