Coming off back-to-back best-ever fourth-place finishes at the Western Athletic Conference Championship, the San Jose State University women’s swimming and diving team aims to crack the top three in the conference for the first time in 2007-08. In addition, the Spartans hope to send multiple athletes to the NCAA Championships and score points there for the first time in 22 years.
To accomplish these goals, third-year head coach Sage Hopkins welcomes back senior sprint freestyle specialist Brie Marhenke, a two-time individual WAC champion in 2006 who took a redshirt last season, 10 letterwinners from a year ago, and an incoming class that features both quantity and quality.
“Top to bottom, I believe this is the best team in the history of this program,” says Hopkins. “The foundation is certainly the returning swimmers and the upperclassmen, but we have tremendous potential and talent among our 17 newcomers.”
“Our sprinters will be anchored by senior co-captain Brie Marhenke,” remarks Hopkins. “Brie is a tremendous competitor who will be looking to improve her school records in the 50 and 100 freestyle. She will be returning as a WAC champion in both of those events, and will look to score points for us at the NCAA Championships in each.
“The distance program will be headed by senior Amanda Carr, who has proven herself over the last three years to be a great leader and competitor both in and out of the pool.”
Lauren Mar, a silver medalist in the 50 freestyle and All-WAC performer in the 100 at last year’s WAC Championship, will provide a strong one-two punch when paired with Marhenke in those events. Fellow junior Katey Nelson will help out in middle distance, having scored points in the 500 freestyle at each of the last two WAC meets. Returners Sara Riley and Tarolyn Robertson will add depth and experience to the sprint group.
Incoming freshmen Julia Koch and Ashley Krisman should make immediate impacts in middle distance, as should Meghan McCurley, Ashley Ladd and Daphne Yeung in sprint events and Kirsten Trammell in distance.
Nikki Chapman, sophomore returners Ally Jack and Hannah Tringham, junior transfers Nathalie Echeverri and Joanna Torres, sophomore transfer Erin Garcia and freshmen Taryn Krische, Amanda Mikaelsson and Julie Wynn will all contribute in freestyle events.
“The breaststroke group will be led by freshmen Caitlin Macky and Kirsten Trammell. Both should be All-WAC in both breaststroke distances this season.”
Garcia, junior returner Beste Erener and freshmen Jillian Cureton and Stephanie Hampton will be the other key components of the Spartan breaststroke contingent.
Ashley Vrieze, who holds school records in all three backstroke distances, has graduated to the pool deck as a Spartan assistant coach, but a strong list of backstrokers returns, explains Hopkins, “headlined by juniors Lauren Mar and Katey Nelson, both of whom have earned All-WAC honors, with Mar specializing in the 100 and Nelson in the 200.
“Senior co-captain Nikki Chapman will focus her efforts in the backstroke as well. We look to her leadership to help propel this group. Beste Erener has shown substantial improvement in her backstroke (in practice), and should add plenty of scoring depth.”
Cureton and fellow freshman Rudie Guerrero will provide depth.
The butterfly group will be led by the standout trio of Robertson, Tringham and fourth-year senior Jillene Golez.
“All three have produced impressive performances under pressure, and we know that we can count on them to continue that fine leadership.”
Marhenke, an All-WAC performer in the 100 fly two years ago, will compete in butterfly events at selected competitions. Erener has had several strong showings in the 200 fly. Jack had a tremendous finish to last season, scoring in the 100 fly at the WAC meet.
Rounding out the fly swimmers are freshmen Guerrero, Hampton, Krische, Macky and Linzy Warkentin.
Says Hopkins, “Our IM events will continue to be one of the strengths of the program, with (All-WAC) returners Beste Erener and Hannah Tringham leading the group. We could potentially have five swimmers in the top eight of the 400 IM (at WAC), with Erener, Tringham, Cureton, Macky and Trammell previously posting times that would have been among the top eight at last year’s meet.
“We are very excited and thrilled about the direction our diving program is headed under new coach Brian Tanner. We have two freshmen divers, Melissa Hymes and Jo Thibodaux, who have both made significant progress in their diving abilities over the last couple of months and are the center columns in the building of what will be a great diving program.
“Relays are one of the most important parts of college swimming. Spartan relays have always performed under pressure, and we have our sights set on school records and All-WAC performances. I think we can definitely break two school records. I’d like to break three.”
The Spartans open up at perennial powerhouse Stanford for the third straight season under Hopkins, and face conference foes Boise State, Idaho and Nevada during a dual-meet season that features four home dates.
“The Nike Cup (formerly Speedo Cup) will finish up our fall season, and we always strive to be in the top five at that competition. It provides a great opportunity to go head-to-head with Pac-10 teams like Stanford and UCLA.”
The WAC Championship will once again be held in San Antonio, Texas, with the 2008 NCAA Championships tabbed for Columbus, Ohio, in late March.