Ron Morris and the BYU men's swim and dive team look to place high in the Mountain West Conference for the 2009-10 season. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
After a building year, the men’s team will again look to depth in each of the events to rally for the top spot in the Mountain West Conference for the 2009-10 season. Last year the men placed fourth in the MWC, the lowest they have ever placed. In the first five seasons of the MWC the Cougar men won five-straight titles, the next four years followed with four-straight second-place finishes.
“Our men will be stronger than last year,” said BYU head coach Tim Powers. “Our greatest strength will be diving and the depth of our team. I think we have some great young kids who bring a great enthusiasm with them that are ready to train hard and I think that they are going to surprise a lot of people. They are already getting better, we saw that as they were high school seniors and I think they are going to improve.”
The men lose Gregor Greiner in the sprints, who broke the MWC and BYU 100 free records at MWC Championships last year. While UNLV will still have a lot of depth in the sprinting events, the Cougars hope to match those points in the diving.
“We can match [UNLV] in the diving and let the other things decide who is on top,” said Powers.
Daniel Bates is back for his sophomore season with the Cougars. He finished 15th in the 50 free at the MWCC with a preliminary time of 20.61 and a final time of 20.88. He swam on the second-place 200 free relay team last year and finished 12th in the 100 free with a time of 45.58. He also swam on the 400 free relay team that placed second at the MWCC. Bates ranked third in the 50 free for the Cougars in the 2008-09 season.
The Cougars have recruited William Forgues, who although is currently injured, will continue to progress as the season goes on. Forgues hails from Anglet, France and placed first in the 100 free on the national level in the second division in 2007. He will look to place well in the 50, 100 and 200 free in conference.
Freshman Josh Tanner is a five-time Utah state champion and will add great potential to the Cougar men. Senior Andrew Merrell is back and will also tally points for the Cougars in the sprinting events.
John Kendrick is back as a junior to lead the distance swimmers. Last season he broke the all-time BYU record in the 1650 free with a time of 15:21.66, placing third overall at conference championships. Kendrick also placed second in the 200 free and sixth in the 500 free last season. He will continue to improve and score high for the Cougars.
2008-09 freshman Stott Bushnell has left the team for a two-year LDS mission and will not be present to help out the distance swimmers this season. However, senior Jeff Ferrell, who swam a lifetime best in the 500 at the MWC Championships will be back. His 500 time placed him fifth in all-time for BYU.
Chad Fong is back from an LDS mission as a distance freestyler. Prior to his mission he was a MWC finalist in three events as a freshman. “He just got back from his mission in August, so later on in the season we’ll look for him to do his best,” said Powers.
Austin Brown is also back from an LDS mission to Italy. Brown finished 10th in the 1650 free with a time of 16:01.10 at the 2005-06 MWC Championships.
Ferrell is back and he’ll be called on more to swim in the backstroke events for the Cougars. “He did his best times last year and we believe he can continue to improve on that,” said Powers, speaking of Ferrell. Christian Keil is back and has trained hard this summer and will continue to improve in the backstroke events.
New recruit Josh Armantrout will also provide promise in the backstroke and fly events. Armantrout hails from Richmond, Virginia and although he didn’t have a high school swim team, he was able to do well in club swimming, qualifying for the NCSA Junior Nationals.
Junior Vytenis Slenys will return to lead BYU in the breaststroke events. Slenys finished fifth in the 100 breast at conference championships and ranks fourth in both the 100 and 200 breast for BYU all-time.
Freshman Jonathan Greenland is a breaststroke swimmer out of Virginia who is showing promise. He was his high school’s Most Valuable Swimmer and was an All-American in the 100 breast.
David Scott was on the 2003-04 team and scored well. After getting married he had to drop out of swimming because he was working to try and make ends meet, but his wife is graduated now and he’s back to swimming the breaststroke.
Dougie Broadbent returns as the top flyer. He placed seventh in the 100 fly in conference last year and ranks fifth in the same event for BYU all-time. Freshman Ryan Bills will add presence to the fly events.
Slenys dropped significant time in the 200 IM at the MWC Championships last season with a time of 1:47.76, the third fastest in BYU history. He finished second in the 200 IM last season. Although the Cougars lose Kenny Clark, they have replaced him with a couple good recruits.
Bills and Hayden Palmer will also add depth to the IM events. Palmer was a 2008 and 2009 CIF 200 IM champion.
“Hayden first caught our attention in the Nike Cup last year where he was a high school kid in the finals in the 200 breast,” said Powers. “He’s a very capable swimmer and really started to blossom his senior year of high school.”
“We’ll have pretty good relays,” said Powers, “But I think as far as the depth goes, the individual sprinting events won’t be our strong points, but I think we can more than make up that with the diving.”
In the free relays the Cougars lose Greiner and Nikola Savic, but return Bates, Kendrick and David Mason. Both the 200 free and 400 free relay team placed second at MWC Championships, earning All-MWC honors.
BYU returns 2008-09 MWC Diver of the Year, Ron Morris and All-American Brandon Watson. Watson is back from an LDS mission and was a first-team All-American his freshman year. Travis Day is also back from an LDS mission who scored at conference his freshman year.
“We have a good opportunity with Brandon Watson and Ron Morris as our basic leaders going into the season,” said BYU diving coach Keith Russell. “It is going to be a fun season. We’re going to do well and the only question is how well. I think we can score a lot of points, we’ve had a good recruiting year and we’re looking forward to a great year.”
The Cougars also return Sam Hatch and Scott Thalman, picking up Nic Suder and Matt Hopper. “All of a sudden we have a stable of really good divers that can score a lot of points for us at conference championships,” said Powers.
BYU returns two former MWC Athletes of the Week in Kendrick and Morris (twice).
“On the men’s side we faced our struggles throughout last season,” said Powers. “We had some problems with our depth, but we will strive to fix those problems this year and place high in the conference.”