Cougar women held the 2009-2010 Mountain West Conference Championship title
Last year, the BYU women’s swim and dive team finished the season with a perfect 11-0 overall record and 8-0 in the Mountain West Conference. The team also earned its fourth-straight MWC Championship and ninth in 11 years. The Cougars now look to take the conference title in their last season of the MWC.
“The women were undefeated last year in the regular conference season and won the conference meet,” BYU head coach Tim Powers said. “We graduated a lot of good swimmers and diver that earned us many points so we have to step up. Everybodys going to be gunning for us and we’re aware of that - we’ve got to work hard.”
The team graduated Kirsty Ferrell as well as Natasha Menezes, both strong contributors to the team in the freestyle.
This year, the team will look to returner Sara Jayne Baldwin and Aleesha Miller to lead the sprinters. Last season, Baldwin earned a spot on the All-MWC team for her performance in the 100 free. She placed fifth in the final with a time of 50. 37.
Miller, also earning All-MWC, placed second in the 50 free and fourth in the 100 free at the MWC swimming and diving championships. She holds two all-time records for the conference for her performances in the 50 free (22.66) and 100 free (49.67), and was also named to the swimming and diving All-Conference Team for her 50 and 100 freestyle performances.
After making her debut as a freshman last s eason, Taryn Toolson will return for the Cougars after earning third place in the 500 free at the MWC Championships with her time of 23.10. She is currently ranked fifth in the conference overall for the 500 free and was named to the All-Conference Team for her 500 free performance.
Other returning distance swimmers include senior Michelle Menezes and sophomore Alina Fong. Junior Amy Xu, who swam with a torn ACL last season, will be returning stronger than ever after surgery this summer.
Freshman distance swimmers include Alexandra Dodds, Alicia Watkins and Ruth Pappas who will up the competition for distance and strengthen the team.
Returning swimmers for backstroke include juniors Candice Smith and Erin Pabst. Last season, Smith placed fourth in the 100 back and third in the 200 back at the MWCC. She was also named to the MWC All-Conference Team for her performances and holds two conference all-time records in the 100 and 200 backstroke with her times of 54.80 and 1:57.09, respectively.
Newcomer Kim Welch will represent the Cougars as well. In the backstroke, Welch was Utah Swimmer of the Year for taking first at state in both the 100 fly (57.89) and 100 back (55.93).
Returning in the breast is senior Sara Jayne Baldwin who was named to the All-MWC Team for the 100 breast and is currently ranked third in the conference overall for the 100 breast with her time of 1:02.27.
Junior Kelsey Higgens was named to the All-MWC team last year for the 100-yard breaststroke. She was named to the All-Conference Team as well for her performance in the 100 breaststroke.
Sophomore Kassandra Bispo was named All-MWC for her fourth-place finish in the 100 breast (1:02.74).
Last year, senior Rachel Grant dominated the conference in the 200 fly, taking the championship title and was the only Cougar swimmer to qualify for Nationals.
She was named All-MWC for her performance at the MWCC. She is ranked third in the MWC in the 100 fly (55.21) and ranked first in the MWC in the 200 fly with a time of 1:57.69, achieved at the NCAA Championships.
A Utah 100 back state champion, Welch will also be swimming the backstroke for the Cougars. Ampuero will also be competing for the Cougars in the backstroke.
The individual medley has a slew of returners who will look to excel this year as much they did last year. With swimmers like Baldwin and Grant competing in the IM, the women’s team is expected to see success.
Grant was named All-MWC for her performance at the MWCC where she placed first in the 400 IM. She was named Swimmer of the Year and was the only Cougar to qualify for Nationals. She is ranked third in the MWC with a time of 2:00.45 in the 200 IM and ranked first in the MWC in the 400 IM with a time of 4:13.47, both achieved at the MWCC.
Baldwin was named to All-MWC for the 200 IM and broke the BYU all-time record in the 200 IM at the MWC Championships with a time of 2:00.27. With this time, she is currently ranked second in the 200 IM for the MWC.
Promising freshmen swimmers for the IM include Jessica Ampuero and Welch. Ampuero hails from Windsor, Calif. and was a top swimmer in the IM.
Last season, women’s relay team dominated with five All-Conference relay teams. Taryn Toolson, Sara Jayne Baldwin, Kirsty Ferrell and Aleesha Miller all swimming in the 200-yard freestyle relay. The 400-yard free relay consisted of Ferrell, Baldwin and Miller and Natasha Menezes. The 800-yard free relay members were Rachel Grant, Amy Xu, Michelle Menezes and Natasha Menezes.
Members in the 200-yard medley relay included Baldwin, Ferrell, Miller and Candice Smith. The 400-yard medley relay team consisted of Smith, Baldwin, Grant and Miller.
This year should prove to be as strong as last with almost all the relay swimmers returning and talented new swimmers being added to the team.
After Graduating MWC Champion, Diver of the Year and NCAA finisher Tawni Jones, the women’s dive team looks to fill her shoes. Ready to fill her absence are sophomore athletes Dayna Christensen and McKenna Cloward. Christensen competed in the 2010 AT&T National Diving Championships in Texas this summer, and placed fifth on the 5-meter platform at the MWCC last season, earning All-MWC for her 224.35 performance.
Cloward placed fifth at the MWCC on the 1-meter springboard with a score of 294.20, earning her All-MWC for her performance.
Raleigh Williams is a gifted freshman diver from Colorado who took state in the 5A girls diving competition her junior year. Williams will make a great addition to the Cougar divers.