The BYU women's swim team look for their third-straight MWC title. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
For the 2008-09 swim and dive season the BYU women’s team looks for a third-straight Mountain West Conference Championship title. The Cougars will be led by seniors Whitney Hall, Elise Livengood, Celleigh McHenry, Angela Nelson and Leilani Roberts along with standout swimmers across the board and a large pool of freshmen hopefuls.
“We are strong in all of the events,” head coach Tim Powers said. “The women have the potential of going over the cap for the NCAA Tournament because there are so many good swimmers. We have a lot of great young girls.”
With five returning sprinters and several new recruits, the Cougars will prove strong in the 50 and 100 free with sophomore Aleesha Miller leading the way. Miller placed second in the 50 (22.95, a personal best) and fifth in the 100 (50.49) at the MWC Championships last season. She was supported by Roberts placing fourth in the 100 (50.36) and junior Kirsty Ferrell placing sixth in the 50 (23.29) and the 100 (50.81) at the MWCC. Sophomores Samantha Crist and Sara Jayne Christiansen as well as new freshmen will fill the depth in the sprinting events.
Last season’s distance team was packed with talent, and this year will prove to be the same, if not better. Junior Natasha Menezes is the defending MWC champion of the 200 and 500 races and will lead the endurance team. She posted personal bests in both events at the MWCC, swimming the 200 in 1:49.09 and the 500 in 4:51.52. She will be joined by her sister, sophomore Michelle Menezes, who set a personal best in the 1650, placing fourth at the MWCC (17:02.81) and seventh in the 500. Sophomore Rachel Grant will help the Cougars in the 500 as she finished fourth at the MWCC last season (4:54.03). Hall returns after a 10th-place finish in the 500 at the MWCC (4:58.02), and McHenry’s seventh-place 1650 finish at the MWCC will increase the depth of the distance team.
Although lacking depth overall, the returning backstrokers have been top in their events and have great potential to win. All-around swimmer Christiansen is back after a third-place finish at the MWCC in the 100 back with a time of 56.45 along with finishing sixth in the 200 with a time of 2:02.83. Seniors Hall and McHenry will also compete in the 100 and 200 backstroke events, respectively. Freshman Candice Smith should make herself known early as she competed in the Olympic trials this past year.
Junior Johanna Stacey will set the tone for the breaststroke swimmers; she placed seventh and 13th, respectively, in the 100 (1:05.71) and 200 (2:21.51) breaststroke last season at the MWCC. Miller finished in the top two heats at the MWCC, going a personal best of 1:05.70 in the 100. Freshmen Karalee Fuller and Amanda Linford will top off the breaststrokers.
Old talent and new will even out the butterfly events this year led by Grant, who was the runner-up in the 200 fly (2:03.35) at last season’s MWCC and also posted a 2:00.74 personal best in the Nike Cup. Ferrell will lead the 100 event as she cut three seconds off her best time to place fifth at the MWCC in 55.23. Livengood will again swim the 200 fly where she placed 12th at the MWCC (2:05.76). Freshmen Jodie Ellis, Marni Knoop, Amy Xu and Amanda Heninger will add more Cougar points to the fly events.
Across the board from freshmen to seniors, the IM swimmers plan to dominate conference opponents. Roberts and Christiansen placed second (2:03.05) and third (2:03.31), respectively, in the 200 IM at the MWCC, followed by Stacey, who dropped five seconds off her best time to place 16th in 2:07.94. Defending 400 IM MWCC champion Grant (4:18.94) will look to take the title again this season. McHenry, Livengood, Knoop and Linford will also help the IM team succeed.
The BYU relays will look to defend the MWCC 800-free relay title, which was won by returning swimmers Grant, M. Menezes, N. Menezes and Miller. The Cougars came in second behind UNLV in the 200 free relay by .03 seconds at last year’s MWCC and look to capture the title this season. High finishes from the 200 medley and 400 medley relay teams at last year’s MWCC have the Cougars in position to win both titles this season.
All-American diver Tawni Jones is back on the boards and ready for another phenomenal season in her junior campaign. Jones won the 1-meter and 3-meter diving competitions at last season’s MWCC and placed third on the platform. Junior Ava Jackman finished fifth and sixth at the MWCC on the 1-meter and 3-meter events, respectively, and will help the Cougars gain points as well. Junior Emily Woods finished 10th in the 3-meter competition and sixth on the tower at the MWCC, and Nelson will also help the divers achieve victory.