Feb 262008
 
Authors: Stephen Meyers

The CSU women’s swimming and diving team will begin competition today at the Mountain West Conference Championships in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Three senior divers, Karin Knudson, Elyse Hall and Kristie Bowlder, will accompany 13 swimmers to make up the team competing for a championship. This year’s team places an emphasis on youth, as six freshmen are making their first appearance at the MWC Championships.

“I had to leave a few seniors at home,” said coach Jon Mattos. “The freshmen on this team need an opportunity.”

Those freshmen include sprint freestyler Kim Freeman, versatile Nicole Lynch, who competes in the backstroke and sprint freestyle, backstrokers Kelly O’Brian and Michelle Price, sprint freestyler Mei Ratz and mid-freestyler Charlie Swearingen.

“Lynch is very versatile and knows how to compete. She’ll soon be a force within the MWC,” Mattos said.

Price set a Wyoming pool record earlier this season in the 200-backstroke with a time of 2:05.92, while Ratz recorded the second fastest time on the team in the 50-freestyle (0:24.80).

The Rams finished the season 7-4 (4-4), good for fifth in the nine-team conference. They started the season on a roll by winning their first six duals and finishing second at the Husker Invite in Nebraska, but then went on a second half swoon, losing four straight conference duals.

“The team still competed well in those dual meets,” Mattos said. “The losses do not brand them as a program that is not capable of winning.”

BYU finished first in the conference and comes into the championships with an undefeated record of 12-0 (8-0).

Also competing for the Rams are sophomores Gisella Ciancie, Kathleen McCleary, Molly Myers and senior Sam Johnson.

Ciancie excels in the quick 100- and 200-freestyle, posting times of 0:52.79 and 1:54.49, respectively, while McCleary excels in distance races. She swam a team-best time of 5:01.93 in the 500-freestyle and a 17:16.41 in the 1650-freestyle.

Diver Elyse Hall leads the dive team, as she recorded the team’s highest scores in the 1-meter, 3-meter and platform diving this year.

The Rams begin with preliminaries at Oklahoma City Community College Pool today and conclude the championship with finals on Saturday.

“Your season is the championship, that’s where all of the performances will come together,” Mattos said. “The athletes have the right mindset and I sense a potential to explode.”

Sports writer Stephen Meyers can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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