COLORADO STATE VS. NORTHERN ARIZONA
CSU returns to action Saturday to host Northern Arizona, one of the Rams’ toughest opponents yet. The meet is officially scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. MT from Moby Pool, with diving kicking things off at 11:15 a.m. Admission to the meet is free.
A strong team in the Western Athletic Conference, Northern Arizona is unbeaten this season, and looks to continue its winning ways against CSU. Previously winning five straight dual meets against the Lumberjacks, CSU sustained back-to-back losses to NAU over the past two seasons.
“Northern Arizona has done a great job the past couple of years by getting really tough swimmers,” Head Coach Christopher Woodard said. “They’re very strong in the 200s and in their distance program. I think they came in confident two years ago, but maybe surprised themselves and beat us, catching us off guard. Then we went down there last year and it’s always tough to swim at 7,500 feet in short-course-meter. It’ll be good to get them back in our pool and hopefully we’re on point. If we are, it should be a good meet.”
Coming off of three weeks of training since their last dual meet, the Rams should be refreshed and ready for competition. Woodard said he and his team have focused on developing the “technical ability in the young team” over the past couple weeks.
“Overall training has been going well,” Woodard said. “I like to be in a training situation, but it is difficult to go three weeks without a meet. I always feel like we want to race, but it has given us time to concentrate on building some volume and definitely hammering out little technical details. The biggest thing that we did as a staff is we were much more specific with work on their strokes and races. There was a lot of specificity and a lot of technical work, but at the same time we were pushing them in their primary strokes to work on a little bit more endurance.”
The steep challenge that NAU presents is the perfect preparation the team needs for the upcoming three-day Las Vegas Invitational, which will take place Nov. 21-23 in Las Vegas, Nev.
“My goal for this meet is to hammer out all the last little details before we head to our Las Vegas Invite,” Woodard said. “My expectation is very clean, precise racing. More than anything else, though, I expect to see racing; I expect to see my girls hungry after three weeks off to get up and race.”
The Colorado State 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 freshmen class made an immediate impact, as several freshmen took first place or top spots in events. Karin Roh proved to be one of the more consistent freshmen of the weekend. She began by taking the highest finish for the Rams in the 200 Freestyle (fifth at 1:56.99). She also placed third in the 50 Freestyle (24.53), and culminated her weekend with a first-place time of 52.80 in the 100 Freestyle.
Freshmen Gabby Morley and Megan Lloyd also made big contributions to the Rams’ success in the distance freestyle and butterfly events, respectively. Lloyd had the highest placement for the Rams (fourth) in the 200 Butterfly (2:11.01) and the 400 IM (4:43.18). Her highlight of the weekend, though, was undoubtedly her first-place finish in the 200 Breaststroke (2:23.08). Morley’s biggest hits were in the 1650 (18:14.10) and 500 Freestyle (5:16.02), taking third in both races.
“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, and remains unbeaten in both springboard events. 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 – will refocus 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 swim team will travel to Las Vegas, Nev., for the Las Vegas Invite (Nov. 21-23), while the divers will compete at the Missouri Tiger Invitational, in Columbia, Mo. The two invites will conclude the Rams’ 2013 competition schedule, before picking up again in January.
This release was provided to SwimSwam courtesy of Colorado State University.