The goal in the water of the 2008-09 San Jose State University women’s swimming and diving team is a simple one.
Simple to identify, tougher to accomplish within the expanding and emerging Western Athletic Conference, as coming off back-to-back-to-back program-best fourth-place WAC placements, head coach Sage Hopkins’ Spartans look to elevate into the top three.
Now in his fourth season in charge, Hopkins arguably has a deeper talent base than ever before at his disposal in order to achieve that goal, with 17 letterwinners, including a program-best 10 all-conference performers returning, alongside two redshirts, to join another highly-touted incoming freshman class of six.
“We’re very excited about our season,” says Hopkins. “We’ve had quite a few long-term goals we’ve been working on over the past three years, and this is the year that I think we’ll start to see those goals come to fruition. We’re looking to be in the top three in the Western Athletic Conference. We’ve had two great recruiting classes in a row, in addition to some fantastic upperclassmen on the team. That combination is going to be powerful within our conference.”
“Sprint freestyle has always been a strength of ours,” goes on Hopkins. “We are looking for that strength to continue. In terms of our sprinters, we have our top sprinter in Lauren Mar, as well as Meghan McCurley, Daphne Yeung and Tarolyn Robertson, all of whom will be counted on to produce top marks.
“Julie Wynn and Ashley Ladd also had solid impacts during relays and in dual meets last year. We’ll be looking for them to continue that. Heather Denman will be contributing to sprint freestyle events as well.
“Middle-distance freestyle is an area that has formerly been one of our weaker spots, but will be much improved this season. We have Julia Koch, who is returning as a strong conference performer, and Erin Garcia, who has had some strong swims in the middle-distance events. They will be assisted by freshmen Amy Friedhoff, Megan Mills, Tomi Petty and Kristin Yamaguchi.
“Another true freshman, Heather Denman, is also somebody that could see some middle-distance freestyle action, but will be focusing on fly, back and sprint freestyle.
“Our distance swimmers will be led by Amy Friedhoff, Megan Mills and Ashley Krisman. Tomi Petty will be called upon at times as well to perform in the distance events. Katey Nelson and Hannah Tringham have also had impressive 500 freestyle performances, and will be swimming that at our top competitions.”
“Backstroke will be one of our great strengths this year,” remarks Hopkins about a stroke that the Spartans have traditionally excelled at in recent years. “We have Katey Nelson and Lauren Mar providing senior leadership, and Heather Denman and Tomi Petty, who are coming into our conference as the top backstrokers as freshmen. We’ll be looking for all four of them to score significant points for us in both dual meets and at the conference championship. I’m expecting very big things out of our backstrokers this year.”
Rudie Guerrero, Beste Erener and Kristin Yamaguchi are other Spartans who will contribute in backstroke.
Denman and Petty’s top times from high school in both backstroke events, would have been fast enough for first-place honors at the 2008 WAC Championship.
“Our breaststroke will be led by Caitlin Macky and Kirsten Trammell,” continues Hopkins. “They made nice strides last year, and we’re looking forward to seeing what they can do this year.”
Garcia and Erener will also be swimming the breaststroke events at times.
“We’ve got a lot of depth in butterfly this year, with senior tri-captain Tarolyn Robertson being our strongest returning sprint butterflyer, and junior Hannah Tringham being our strongest returning 200 butterflyer,” says Hopkins “We also have Erener, Jack and Macky, all of whom had impressive performances in the fly last year, and we are looking for continued improvement from them.
“Rudie Guerrero is definitely one of our most improved competitors. She put in a lot of hard work over the summer, and has been leading many of our butterfly sets. Denman has great butterfly times out of high school, and will be called upon to swim it fairly regularly. Redshirt freshman Linzy Warkentin has been continually improving over the first few weeks of the season, and we are anxious to see what she can do this year.”
“The 200 individual medley is led by Macky and Trammell, with Erener, Tringham and Garcia adding depth as returners.”
Denman and Yamaguchi may also be utilized in the 200 IM.
“The 400 IM is one of our stronger events with Macky, Trammell, Erener and Tringham all capable of earning All-WAC distinction.”
“We are very excited again about our diving prospects. Both Melissa Hymes and Jo Thibodaux have made tremendous improvements from where they were a year ago. Jo is beginning to perform dives that only one other girl in our conference can perform.
“Freshman Jessica Holden has tremendous potential and talent, and we are very pleased to have her as a Spartan.”
“We’ve always had very strong sprint relays, and we want to continue that trend. Our one weak point has been the 800 free relay, and with the improvements of some of our returners, and the addition of these freshmen, all of whom are great 200 freestyle swimmers, we are looking for that relay to move up significantly within the conference.”
San Jose State opens up once again with a dual meet at Stanford, before traveling to Las Cruces, N.M., for the first WAC Shootout, where they will take on conference foes Nevada, New Mexico State and Northern Arizona, among others, in an early-season test.
The first of five dual meets at home comes against WAC foe Boise State on November 1. During the remainder of the regular season, the Spartans will also face Nevada a second time, and renew their rivalry in the pool a total of three times with Fresno State.
The annual Nike Cup is in Long Beach, Calif., November 20-22, with the 2009 WAC Championship returning to San Antonio, Texas, February 25-28.