Angela Goodson-Price hopes to help the Cougars win the MWC Champsionships again this season. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
In the 2007-08 season the Cougar women swim and dive team hope to build upon their MWC Tournament Championship with the help of a strong recruiting class and returners that will bolster their team.
"If we swim well, with the talent that we have, we will be hard to beat this year," BYU women's swim coach Stan Crump said. "The key to that is we need to swim well and stay healthy to give ourselves a shot at winning the conference title. We have as much talent this year as we have ever had on our team."
Of the six individual and three relay freestyle events, BYU had top finishers in every event at last year's MWC Championships and won the 400 and 800 free relays. This year the sprint free distances (50, 100, 200) will be led by junior Leilani Roberts and sophomore Kirsty Ferrell, while the BYU women will be led in the distance free events by Natasha Menezes. Roberts swam the fastest times for her team in the 100 and 200 free last season; both times came when she swam at the MWC Championship as she finished second in the conference in each event. Ferrell was the team's top swimmer last season in the 50 free. Menezes dominated the long distance free events last season and had a very strong showing in the MWC Championship as she won the 500 free with a time of 4:53.28 and took second in the 1650 free. The free sprint distances will receive an extra bit of strength this year from freshman Aleesha Miller is from Mesa, Ariz.
As for the free relay events the Cougars also returns a strong set of swimmers and hopes to build upon their 400 and 800 free MWC titles. Both of these relay teams have three of four team members returning this season. The 400-free relay team beat Utah in the MWC Championship by five tenths of a second and set a new school record with a time of 3:22.47.
The Cougar women need to fill in the hole left in their roster by Brittany Burk, who took first in both the 100 and 200 back last year's MWC Championship as a senior. Junior Whitney Hall had the team's next best time in the 50 back in the dual meet with Utah. BYU will also look for help in the backstroke from junior Celleigh McHenry, who finished in the top eight at the MWC Championship in the 200. Freshman Sara Jayne Christiansen also looks to bolster the Cougar backstrokers as she won the 100 back at the Utah High School State Championship.
Senior Jamie Bloom was the top Cougar last season in both the 100 and 200 breast. She recorded her top times of 2006-07 at both breast distances at the MWC Championship as she finished in second place in both events. She will receive help in the 200 breast from another senior, Tara Patience, who had the team's second best time on the season. Patience's 200 breast time was among the top eight times in the MWC during the 2006-07 season.
Senior Angela Goodson-Price looks to anchor the Cougar butterfly swimmers. Goodson-Price is a two-time All-American and a two-time MWC first team swimmer in the 100 fly. She also swam in the 200 fly at the NCAA Championship. BYU also hopes to have freshman Rachel Grant from Walnut, Calif., contribute immediately in the 200 fly.
BYU returns all five swimmers that finished in the top eight in the 200 and 400 IM at the MWC Championship. Goodson-Price received the highest honor as she finished in first place in the 200 IM. Roberts finished right behind Goodson-Price in the 200 IM at the MWC Championship, while Patience finished in the top eight in both the 200 and 400 IM at the MWC Championship. The Cougars also look for newcomers Grant and Christiansen to have an impact this year in the IM.
The BYU women divers are highlighted by two of the MWC's top divers from last season, senior Angela Nelson and sophomore Tawni Jones. Nelson, from San Antonio, Texas, took second place in all three diving events (1M, 3M and Platform) at the MWC Championship last year. Jones, from Mesa, Ariz., backed up Nelson's performances with impressive top four finishes in every event.
"We are going to be a power within the conference," BYU diving coach Keith Russell said. "The expectation for our athletes is to make the NCAA."