MEET NOTES: Colorado State to host Northern Colorado on Senior Day

SCOUTING NORTHERN COLORADO
Northern Colorado closes its dual-meet season Wednesday against CSU. The Bears are 9-8 on the season, including winners of three of their past four meets since mid-January. The Rams and Bears have several common opponents, including Air Force, Idaho, Nebraska Omaha, New Mexico, New Mexico State and Northern Colorado. CSU is 3-1 thus far against those opponents, while UNC is 2-4. The Bears are coached by Kelly McClanahan, who is in her fifth season.

CSU is 32-2 all-time against its in-state opponent, winning 14 dual meets in a row dating back to the 1996-97 season. CSU’s first-ever meet came against Northern Colorado, a 93-20 victory in 1974.

SENIOR SENDOFF
During Wednesday’s meet vs. Northern Colorado, CSU will recognize its five graduating senior student-athletes:

  • Melissa Bollig: Has missed this season with an injury, but made an immediate impact during her one season on the boards with the Rams… In 2013-14, ranked second on the team on the 1-Meter (276.45) and third on the 3-Meter (291.75)… Finished eighth and 11th, respectively, at the Mountain West Championships, scoring points… Followed that performance up with top-35 places in both events at NCAA Zones… Started her career at New Mexico, earning top-eight finishes in all three diving events at the MW Championships and competing in NCAA Zones… Is a two-time Mountain West Scholar-Athlete, and earned Honorable Mention Scholar- All-America recognition by the CSCAA… Is a grad student after earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a 4.0 GPA.
  • Mary Kate Hardy: As a team captain, is finishing her career with her strongest season, currently ranked in the top 16 in the Mountain West for all three diving events, including the team-leader for Platform (191.10)… With a top score of 270.98 on the 1-Meter boards, has qualified for NCAA Zones for the second season in a row… Earned points at last year’s Mountain West Championships, finishing 10th on the 1-Meter boards… A year prior, she placed 10th on Platform, and as a freshman finished 16th in that event… Is a three-time Mountain West Academic All-Conference recipient… Will graduate with a degree in business administration.
  • Michelle Hawkins: Is a team captain and competes in the backstroke and butterfly events for CSU, as well as several relay teams… During her junior season, ranked third on the team in the 200 Backstroke (2:03.81) and fourth in the 100 Backstroke (57.89)… Has placed in the top 20 in both backstroke events at the Mountain West Championships each of the past two seasons… Scored points in 2013, finishing 14th in the 200 Backstroke with a personal-best time of 2:00.24… Will graduate with a degree in biological science.
  • Katie Polich: Is a team captain and competes in the butterfly and freestyle events… As a junior, led the Rams in the 50 Freestyle (23.74), and ranked second in the 100 Freestyle and fifth in the 100 Butterfly… Also competed on three of the Rams’ top relay teams… Placed in the top 35 of three events at last season’s Mountain West Championships, including 31st in the 50 Freestyle… Named her team’s Most Improved Player… Is a three-time Mountain West Scholar-Athlete and Academic All-Conference recipient… Will graduate with a degree in health and exercise science.
  • Tess Simpson: Is in position to place high in the 100 Breaststroke, currently ranked sixth in the Mountain West (1:03.48).. Also ranks in the top 20 in the 200 Breaststroke and 100 Butterfly… Leads the team in the 100 Breaststroke and 100 Butterfly, and ranks third in the 50 Freestyle and 200 Breaststroke… Also part of all of CSU’s top relay teams… As a junior, placed 10th at the Mountain West Championships in the 100 Breaststroke and 19th in the 100 Butterfly… Finished 12th and 16th, respectively, as a sophomore… Was part of two school-record relay teams during the 2012-13 season (200 Medley Relay, 1:41.17; 400 Medley Relay, 3:42.27)… Is a three-time Mountain West Academic All-Conference recipient… Will graduate with a degree in psychology.

 

SCOUTING AIR FORCE

Just a few days after closing its home season, CSU will be back in action just down the road, taking on Air Force at the Academy. The swimmers will compete in a dual meet on Saturday (1 p.m.), while the divers will take part in the two-day AFA Diving Invitational (FridaySaturday). The Rams are 21-3 all-time against Air Force, but are coming off a 176.5-123.5 loss last spring.

Air Force enters the week 7-7, and like CSU, Saturday will be the team’s final action until the Mountain West Championships Feb. 18-21 in San Antonio, Texas. All four of CSU’s losses have been to teams Air Force has also been defeated by. The Falcons beat Northern Colorado twice, a team which CSU will face Wednesday. Air Force is coached by Casey Converse, who is in his 26th season with the Academy.

MILONE NAMED MOUNTAIN WEST DIVER OF THE WEEK
Colorado State diver Ariana Milone was named the Mountain West Women’s Diver of the Week for the fourth time in her career on Jan. 20, three days after capturing first-place finishes in both diving events during a dual meet at New Mexico. Despite being just a junior, Milone and former Ram Lori Vigil are the only two divers in CSU history to earn the honor four times throughout their careers.

“This award means a lot to me,” Milone said. “I made it a commitment to work even harder this year, both in the weight room and in the pool, and earning this honor shows that the hard work is paying off.”

The Woodlands, Texas, native scored the maximum possible points (18), by winning the 1-Meter and 3-Meter springboard events. On the 1-Meter boards, Milone totaled a score of 287.03, just more than a point shy of her season best, and a score which ranks among the top 10 in school history. On the 3-Meter boards, Milone was again stellar, scoring 310.95, second-best on the season and fifth all-time in CSU history. Both scores are NCAA Zones qualifying, and would rank fifth and eighth, respectively, in the MW this season.

An all-conference performer a year ago, junior Ariana Milone has made it a habit of earning points for the Rams on the boards. Nothing compared to her Nov. 8 meet against New Mexico State, however. Milone’s 3-Meter score of 322.50 was a personal best and made her the second-best performer in school history. The school record of 324.16 was set in 2002. In the 1-Meter event, Milone was just a few points from a career high, scoring 288.45, the fifth-highest score in CSU history.

SPRING FOCUS
The Rams have given Woodard plenty to be excited about going into the final stretch of the season, but he and his team know that they are capable of accomplishing even more. The team will use the next month to buckle down and make small tweaks to put the Rams in position to finish in the upper half of the conference standings.

“Last year, we maybe put a little more emphasis on the dual meets because we needed to build some confidence, and we didn’t perform well at conference, which was disappointing for all of us,” Woodard said. “There’s still focus on the dual meets, but we’re not getting away from the overall season plan, which is to move up the rankings. We need to be ready to perform lifetime bests across the board at conference.”

SAN DIEGO TRAINING
With no competition for nearly two months, the Rams wanted a little extra preparation before competing in their final three dual meets and the Mountain West Championships. That’s why the team reported back to campus early in January to take a five-day trip to San Diego for scrimmages against live competition and team bonding.

“We always want to go and find someone to swim,” Woodard said. “The bottom line is, it’s a change of scenery. It gives the kids an opportunity to swim long-course meters, which we don’t normally do. It allows us to get them out of their comfort zones. It gives them the boost of not having to look at these four walls for 22 days straight, and it gives us the freedom to do some different things.”

SEASON REWIND
Entering the final stretch of the season, the Rams are 3-4, with several bright points to focus on as the team closes its dual-meet season and eyes the Mountain West Championships.

“The first half of the season went well,” Woodard said entering the team’s meet at New Mexico, which began the spring season. “We are sitting at .500, and all in all I think our girls have done a great job in training and in their race strategy. We feel pretty good; now it is time to push the pedal for the rest of the season.”

 

  • New Mexico – CSU opened its spring season with a loss at New Mexico, but despite losing the meet, showed its depth by taking first or second place in 14 of the 16 events, including three of the top four spots in six events.Katie Kicklighter (50 Freestyle) and Jessica Shepard (200 Backstroke) each won events, while Ariana Milone won both diving events – reaching scores that rank in the top 10 in school history.
  • Georgia Tech Fall Invitational – CSU closed the fall portion of its season at the prestigious Georgia Tech Fall Invitational (Nov. 20-22), which featured some of the top teams in the ACC, SEC and around the nation. The Rams held their own, finishing 10th out of 17 teams, and recording numerous lifetime-best times.
  • New Mexico State – CSU evened its dual-meet record with a 180-117 victory over New Mexico State on Nov. 8.Ariana Milone earned the second-highest performance on the 3-Meter boards in school history, while three freshmen won individual events. In total, CSU won the meet’s first six races, and 11 of the first 12, to take a commanding lead.
  • Idaho and San Diego State – The Rams earned a strong victory over Idaho and split on the day, also falling to then-undefeated San Diego State (Nov. 1).Cristina Bassaniwon the 100 Breaststroke and finished second in the 200 Breaststroke. The diving squad earned 23 points, including a 1-3-4 performance on the 3-Meter boards.
  • Wyoming – Even while facing a talented and veteran team, the Rams were disappointed in the way they competed against Wyoming during their home opener (Oct. 25). One bright spot, however, wasJessica Shepard, who won the 100 Backstroke and took second in two other events.
  • Denver and Nebraska Omaha – CSU opened the 2014-15 season with a split, defeating Nebraska Omaha while falling to host Denver (Oct. 18). Six different athletes won individual events, includingKatie Kicklighter in her collegiate debut. The divers also had a strong showing, going 1-2-3 on the 1-Meter boards.

KICKLIGHTER MAKING A SPLASH
Just a true freshman, Katie Kicklighter is making an immediate impact for the Rams. In her collegiate debut, she won both of her individual events (50 Freestyle, 23.41; 100 Freestyle, 51.60), and she hasn’t slowed since. She currently holds the seventh- and 18th-fastest times, respectively, in the Mountain West, and the top times on the team. She also ranks second on the team in the 100 Butterfly, third in the 100 Backstroke and is part of each of CSU’s fastest relay teams.

“She is going to be a key contributor throughout her career here, maybe even moreso than we thought,” Woodard said. “She is highly motivated in her events and she is definitely a force to be reckoned with. I’m excited to see her compete at conference.”

While Kicklighter has been exceptional, CSU’s entire freshman class has been very solid. Colleen Olson holds the team’s third-best mark in the 200 Freestyle, Gianna Salanitro has the third-best time in the 500 Freestyle and Hailey Spratte has the fastest mark in the 1000 Freestyle.

“The attitude and discipline the freshman class brings is just outstanding,” Woodard said. “They perform the sets as written, if not better. They have shown a lot of professionalism and brought a lot of hype to our team.”

In total, a freshman or sophomore holds the team’s top times in eight of the team’s 13 primary individual swimming events.

ON THE BOARDS
While the swimmers have made plenty of strides over the past two seasons, the divers have remained constant – in a good way. Junior Ariana Milone holds the fourth- and fifth-best scores in the Mountain West on the 1-Meter and 3-Meter boards, respectively, while the Rams’ three other divers are all in position to finish in the top 16 at next month’s Championships.

“Once again, our diving team will be among the best in the conference,” Woodard said. “Ari is our strongest diver, and she’ll earned a lot of first places, which helps our team win dual meets and puts points on the board for us. But she’s not the only one. Our diving team is very experienced and strong.”

Milone finished fifth in the 1-Meter diving event at the Mountain West Championships last February, the Rams’ highest finish. She also earned ninth place on the 3-Meter springboard. CSU qualified four divers for NCAA Zones in 2013-14, the most represented by CSU in more than a decade and tied for the most in the Mountain West. Already this season, Milone, Mary Kate Hardy and Emily Williams have earned qualifying scores.

VETERAN AND SKILLED LINEUP
The underclassmen have definitely shown their potential over the past few months, but the Rams’ veteran swimmers are also making a strong impact. Tess Simpson, one of five seniors on the roster, currently holds the sixth-best time in the Mountain West in the 100 Breaststroke, and the 18th-best time in the 200 Breaststroke. She has the chance to score in both events at the conference championships, as do juniors Cristina Bassani and Jessica Shepard. Bassani has the league’s 14th-best and 16th-best times in the breaststroke events, while Shepard ranks in the top 24 in both backstroke events and the 200 IM.

“We have a much more-rounded team this year,” Woodard said. “Megan Lloyd is a force in the Mountain West and Karin Roh, our freestyler, has really come into her own and is extremely motivated and is doing great things. Jessica Shepard and Tess Simpson are also lynch pins to what we do. They have a lot of diversity, and they know how to swim tough.”

Shepard earned All-Mountain West honors last year, finishing fifth in the 100 Backstroke, while Simpson placed 10th in the 100 Breaststroke.

RENOVATIONS TO MOBY POOL
There has been a joint effort between campus and athletics to update Moby Pool, which has the Rams excited. The renovations include updated bleachers and painted walls, and most importantly, new starting blocks and a rebrand to the pool deck.

LOOKING AHEAD
Following a pair of dual meets to close the regular season, CSU will have nearly three weeks to prepare for the Mountain West Championships. The Rams look to move up the conference ladder at this pinnacle event, and prove that they are a team on the rise. In March, CSU’s qualified divers will compete at NCAA Zones, and a week and a half later, the team hopes to have a representative at the NCAA Championships in Greensboro, N.C.

Above is a press release submitted by Colorado State.

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Braden Keith

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