Entering its second season in the Mountain West Conference, the BYU men's swimming and diving team looks to continue the domination it exhibited in the league's inaugural year. The team lost just two seniors, breaststroker John Lowry and diver Devan Porter, and returns a solid core of competitors in its attempt to defend its first conference championship in four years.
Leading the Cougar campaign for the 2000-2001 season is senior Arunas Savickas, one of the most competitive and highly adorned swimmers in BYU history. A backstroke and freestyle specialist, the two-time Olympian brings a three-year All-American and All-Conference streak into the season. Savickas holds nine school records, more than any other swimmer all-time at the school, and looks to build on the school-best eight individual championships he has already claimed to this point. As he concludes a career which will place him in the ranks of BYU's all-time greatest athletes, Savickas should continue to lead the team, with a consecutive conference championship and top-20 national team ranking as his goals.
Competing with Savickas for the second season will be Singapore Olympian, 18-year-old sophomore Gary Tan. Following a successful freshman campaign which saw him garner MWC Swimmer of the Week honors and land as a conference finalist, Tan and Savickas will provide a potent 1-2 punch in their events and could finish together in the conference championships. "We have two NCAA All-Americans, and we recruited well to supplement the return of 12 swimmers that all scored last year at the conference championships. This should give us a good nucleus on which to build a successful season", said coach Tim Powers.
The Cougars are deep in the free events, with solid distance swimmer Rob Morris returning for his junior season and senior Alex Denke looking to shake off the effects of a two-year layoff following his return from an LDS mission a year ago. Drew Watkins completed a stellar freshman outing, peaking late in the season and earning All-MWC honors to return as the team's top breaststroker. Joining Watkins are top recruits Nick Tobler and Christian Armstrong. Tobler, a top-five national recruit, recorded Olympic trial cut times in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke and was a Junior National Champion at the age of 15. Armstrong, a native of Provo, was Utah's best breaststroke recruit and also competes in the 500 free.
In the sprinting events, traditionally weaker races for the Cougars, the team will benefit from the return of school recordholder William Betz from an LDS mission. Depending on how he adjusts to the two-year break in training, Betz, the 50 free recordholder, has the capability to immediately bolster the team's performance in short relays and sprinting events.
BYU will look to Sean Moore and Josh Johnston, both solid IM performers, as well as Farr Smith, a consistent contributor entering his senior season. David Larson, a recruit out of Arizona should also do well, and backstroke transfer Chris Johnson will join the Cougar squad from 1999 national champion Auburn when he returns from an LDS mission to Milan in the fall.
On the other end of the pool, the Cougars suffer the loss of defending conference champion Devan Porter to graduation but several talented young athletes are waiting in the wings. Most notable is sophomore Aaron Russell, who returned from an LDS mission last year to claim a conference crown and garner second-team All-America honors in his first season of college eligibility. Russell has the potential to bring BYU a national championship before he is done, and will be the team's anchor the next three years. Junior Viraj Patil, a conference platform champion his freshman season, will also continue to be solid. "Led by All-Americans Justin Wilcock and Aaron Russell, we will be well represented at all our meets, including the NCAA Nationals", said diving coach Keith Russell.