The BYU men's team look to come out on top in the MWC in the 2008-09 season. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Coming off back-to-back regular-season Mountain West Conference titles and taking second at the MWC Championships, the BYU men’s swimming and diving team hopes to win both titles in the 2008-09 season. The Cougars will be led by seniors Kenny Clark, Gregor Greiner, Blake Henderson and Jacoby Jacobsen.
“Our depth is going to be one of our strengths this year,” head coach Tim Powers said. “We’re not practicing for second; we have a tradition.”
With five returning sprinters and two standout recruits, BYU will make waves in the pool this season. Coming off a second-place finish in the 100 free (44.53) at the MWCC last season, Greiner will lead the men’s team in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle events. Clark shaved 1.5 seconds off his best time in the 100 free at the MWCC last season with a time of 45.28. Junior Andrew Merrell was a finalist in the 50 free last year with a 20.81 finish and hopes to compete in the finals again this season. Freshmen Seth Parker and Stott Bushnell both posted top times in their high school state meets and will also help the Cougars.
Returning from an LDS mission, sophomore John Kendrick is back to pilot the Cougars in the 200, 500 and 1650 events. As a freshman in the 2005-06 season, Kendrick was recognized with first-team All-MWC honors in the 1650, placing second at the MWCC with a time of 15:25.57. Sophomore Sam Bates was a finalist last season in the 500 and 1650, finishing on top for BYU. Junior Jeff Ferrell and freshman Matt Rados will also provide depth to the distance team.
Jacobsen leads the team in the backstroke as he finished seventh in the 100 (50.41) and fifth in the 200 (1:49.16) at the MWCC last season. Ferrell posted a season best at the Nike Cup last year with a time of 1:53.77 in the 200, also finishing in the top 16 at the MWCC in the same event. Junior Dougie Broadbent finished in the top 16 at the MWCC in the 100 back with a time of 52.34. Freshman Daniel Bates and sophomore Christian Keil will also help bring in points for the Cougars in the backstroke events this season.
The Cougars only lost one of their top 100 breaststroke swimmers from last season and two more from the 200 event—both to be high-depth events for BYU. Sophomore Lithuanian Vytenis Slenys was the top man in the breaststroke events as he finished sixth and fifth, respectively, in the 100 (56.50) and 200 (2:03.81) breaststroke events at the MWCC last season. Mason will also compete in the 100 breast as he posted a 58.13 best against UNLV last year. True freshmen Parker, Justin Warren, Rados and Stephen Russell will also bring great talent to the Cougars in the breast events.
Even after graduating their top two swimmers in the fly, the Cougars continue to show consistency in the 100 and 200 events. At the MWCC last season Broadbent placed eighth and sixth in the 100 and 200 fly, respectively, swimming his all-time best in the prelims at 49.33 in the 100 and 1:50.54 in the 200. Henderson also finished 12th at the MWCC with a time of 50.45. Freshman Brent Stevenson won the Los Angeles portion of the CIF meet his senior year of high school, posting a 51.00 in the 100 fly, and should to do great things at BYU.
Clark is the top man in both the 200 and 400 IM events for the third season in a row. At the MWCC last year Clark placed fourth in the 200 with a personal-best time of 1:50.73 and third in the 400 IM with a time of 3:55.90, dropping nine seconds off his previous season-best time. Ferrell, Jacobsen, Mason, Rados and Slenys will also compete to lift the Cougars in the IM events.
The BYU men had very strong relay teams last season that hope to be filled again this year. At the MWCC last season the 200-, 400- and 800-free relay teams finished third, third and fourth, respectively. The 200-free relay team was only .59 seconds behind first place at the MWCC last season. In the 200 and 400 medley relays, BYU finished second and fifth, respectively. The 200 medley relay team has three of its members back on the team this year with Jacobsen, Mason and Merrell proving to be contenders for the MWCC title.
After a building year for the dive team, this season should prove to be a success with young talent. Junior Bryce Engstrom finished sixth at the MWCC with a final score of 286.55 and also finished 12th on the platform with a preliminary score of 253.15 that would’ve placed him fourth overall. Junior Ron Morris, who placed second in the platform at the 2006 MWCC with a final score of 304.05, is back from an LDS mission. Freshman recruit Sam Hatch from Gilbert, Ariz., should make his presence known immediately on all three diving events.