(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Picked to place second in the conference this year by Mountain West Conference coaches, the young BYU men’s swim and dive team will look to challenge for the top spot as talented newcomers prove themselves this season.
“There’s a lot of promise but we have young swimmers so they have to learn how to handle collegiate competition right off the bat,” BYU head coach Tim Powers said. “We expect them to be good in every meet even if they’re broken down and tired, which is a big change from high school.
We’re hopeful this year,” Powers continued. “We have swimmers that were highly recruited by other schools, but they chose to come with us we’re excited about that. Last year we had a lot of injuries and we couldn’t cover all the events, but that wont be the case this year.”
Returning sprinters for the Cougars include senior Christen Keil who is ranked first at BYU in the 50 free and 100 free with respective times of 20.83 and 45.70 and junior Daniel Bates who has the second-fastest time in the 50 free on the team with a 21.03 earned at MWC Championships.
Promising newcomers to the sprint team include high school All-Americans Jake Taylor and Ryan Krause. Taylor swims in multiple events and was Utah Swimmer of the Year for his performances at state. Krause is a transfer who will also be swimming in multiple events, but specializes in the butterfly.
All-Conference swimmer John Kendrick is returning for his senior year to lead the distance swimmers. Last season at the MWC swimming and diving championships, Kendrick placed third in the 200 free (1:37.82), fourth in the 500 free (4:26.88) and fifth in the 1650 free (15:31.17). Kendrick is also ranked third in the conference overall for the 200 free (1:37.82) as well as fourth in the 500 free (4:26.88) and fifth in the 1650 free (15:31.17). Other contributing returners include junior Chad Fong.
New distance swimmers include high school All-Americans Robbie Miner, Dallin Johnson and Samuel Bates who recently returned from a mission.
Freshmen Miner and Johnson both excelled in the 500 free in their high school careers taking state in the event.
With the backstroke team dwindling, BYU has recruited promising high school All-Americans Jake Taylor and Steven Richards.
“There are so many swimmers who haven’t swam in their first college meet yet,” said Powers. “We’re excited for them to get started and have the opportunity to prove themselves and show what they got.”
Senior Vytenis Slenys is returning for his final year to lead the Cougars in breaststroke. Last season, Slenys was named All Conference for his performances in the 100-yard breaststroke, 200-yard breaststroke, and 200-yard individual medley at the MWCC.
New recruits to breaststroke include All-Americans Steven Richards and Chad Sorenson as well as Nathan Henderson who hails from England. Rafael Alfaro also comes to BYU as a native of El Salvador, having followed his Olympian Uncle who swam for BYU as well.
Richards and Sorenson both placed at state in the 100 breast. Henderson is a nationally-ranked swimmer who will compete in the 100 breast as well as the 100 and 500 free.
The team has lost two significant swimmers in the fly to missions. Brent Stevenson was the only Cougar to make it to the finals in the 100 fly, placing 11th in finals with a time of 50.03. Ryan Bills currently holds the fastest time on the team for the 200 fly with a 1:52.65 earned at the MWCC last season.
New swimmers stepping up to fill those shoes will include high school All-Americans Krause and Alfaro.
Krause joins the team after having attended the junior college Palomar in San Diego, Calif. In 2009 and 2010, Krause was the California Community College Athletic Association state champion in the 100-yard butterfly. He was also the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference's Men's Swimmer of the Year this past season after winning three events in the conference finals.
Another loss to a mission is Hayden Palmer who had a stellar season last year. At the MWCC he had a final time of 3:53.51 in the 400 IM, dropping over eight seconds of his seeded time and earning him the title of 400 IM Champ.
New additions to the IM will include freshmen Richards, Taylor, Sorenson and Alfaro.
Relays that are expected to be strong this season include the 800 free relay,
400 free relay and all medley relays.
Last season, the 800 free relay team earned All-Conference for its time of 6:39.26 in the MWCC. Returners to the relay teams include swimmers Kendrick, Keil, Fong, Bills, and Bates.
“We have very talented young men coming into the program,” said Powers. “I know that they can do well in their own particular events, but we plan to incorporate them into the relays. I’m confident that our relays will be quite strong this year.”
Diver of the Year Brandon Watson will return to the team for his junior year after having an outstanding summer winning multiple awards including the AT&T National Diving Championship in the 1-meter. During the season, Watson won the MWCC title for both the 1 and 3-meter events. He heads into this season after a great summer, hoping for similar achievements.
Other returning swimmers include sophomore Nic Suder who made the all-conference team at the MWCC for his performance in the 1-meter and platform.
Junior Travis Day made all-conference for the 3-meter and junior Sam Hatch made All-Conference for platform. Both will be returning to the team as well. Bryce Enstrom is back after a medical redshirt. Before his injury, Engstrom was an All-MWC diver.