Oct. 18, 2002
Records were made to be broken. The 2002-03 Michigan State women's swimming and diving team is preparing for a season that sees numerous school records fall at the hands of a talented squad that combines experienced veterans and talented newcomers.
"This team has got some great talent just busting at the seams right now. We're setting ourselves up for a great season," Michigan State women's head coach Jim Lutz stated of the bright future of the Spartan squad.
Lutz and the Spartan coaching staff look for the team to break many school records this season. There are at least 10 longstanding records that could be shattered during the upcoming season.
"It's not out of the question that we can break records in both of the backstrokes, all five relays, the individual medley events and the breaststroke," Lutz admitted.
"Last year was Kate's best season yet at Michigan State and Stephanie has had experience at the NCAA level at the regionals," said MSU associate head coach Matt Gianiodis.
"We have a very good senior class this year," Gianiodis added about the elder Spartans. "It is a very large senior class. They have done a really nice job within the past year to improve.
Off-season training has been a vital component to Michigan State's goals for the season. With several swimmers competing at the U.S. Nationals, dedicated practice has been an important aspect of the squad's summer.
While Michigan State lost five student-athletes, including school-record holder Ildiko Szekely, to graduation last May, the Spartans return a number of swimmers who led the team in individual events one year ago.
Duncombe will return to the water for the backstroke, an event in which she set new school records in the 100 and 200 last season. Deb Hollon also returns as a top-four finisher in each event and is the top returning Spartan behind Duncombe.
Michigan State also returns their entire breaststroke group, featuring O'Neil and Chrissy Spaulding.
Katie Sophiea is the top returning Spartan in the butterfly, finishing third in each event last season. Tammy Jones also will return in the fly, having set a lifetime best at the Senior Nationals this summer.
Duncombe's experience will be felt on the individual medley events, as she finished four seconds faster than the second-place finisher last season in the 100 and also topped the 200 top times list. The senior is also the top-returning Spartan in the 400.
Duncombe's captain counterpart, Anisko, will be the eldest on a very young diving team. The graduation of two-time Big Ten Diver of the Year and two-time Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor winner, Carly Weiden, leaves a chasm in the diving ranks, but Anisko's experience at the NCAA Zone Championships will help to fill the void.
Michigan State returns three of the four members of the school record holding 400-yard medley relay team, with Duncombe, O'Neil and Copestick all coming back for another year with the Green and White.
While the experience of the upperclassmen will anchor the team, the newcomers will provide a spark of fresh energy and depth to the team.
MSU welcomes 11 first-time Spartans to Charles McCaffree pool this season and each one of them is expected to make an impact on the team. Elizabeth Cooper, Emily Crookhall-Nixon, Courtney Ellabarger, Rachael Hagerman, Tesla Hughes, Katrina Kniff, Lindsey Rodin, Erika Templeton and Marsena Vranesic are the incoming MSU swimmers, while Dianna Anderson and Jennifer Jorgensen will take to the diving well for the first time with the Green and White.
"I think, based on their ability, we are going to look to the younger people to be contributing factors right away," said Gianiodis of the new crop of Spartans.
The Spartans' talented future is reflected in the goals of the team and coaching staff. Aside from breaking school records, Lutz sees this squad to have a large potential to be a scoring factor at the NCAA Championships. The team will strive to be on the board for both swimming and diving and crack the top 30.
"We, as coaches, have the experience to assess talent and what we see when we look across the pool are people with loads of talent. Even more talent than what some of them realize," Lutz stated of his Spartans. "As coaches, we have to open their eyes and show them how good they are."
Gianiodis is looking forward to the upcoming season as well. "The second semester will be great. Some of the younger people can really skyrocket in terms of performance."
"This team has the potential to be the best team in Michigan State history," Lutz stated, as he eyes the upcoming season with determination. "From a program standpoint, they have the ability to be the best in MSU history."
With their eyes on the records, some of which have stood for ten years, the Michigan State women's swimming and diving team will strive to accomplish their goals and stake their claim on Spartan history.