Sept. 22, 2005
There’s a buzz surrounding the 2005-06 Florida State University swimming and diving season. Not just because the new facility is starting to become a reality, but because of what’s been happening in the water. With only two ACC Championship finalists on the men’s side and two from the women’s squad departed, Neil Harper’s seventh season could be the best ever, and that’s saying a lot for a program that has produced 22 All-Americans, 42 ACC Champions and 79 All-ACC performers over the last six years.
Every year the men’s team keeps creeping closer and closer to ACC powerhouse Virginia and in 2005 the Seminoles got as near as anyone has in six years. All five All-ACC performers are back this season as well as three of the four members of the winning 400 freestyle relay. Seventeen returners scored points at last year’s league meet with 18 performances in the finals. Since 1992, the Seminoles are the only school on the men’s side to win at least one event every year at the conference meet. With 24 returners back for the 2005-06 campaign, Florida State only had to add three incoming freshman and a pair of transfers.
Just as the case has been for the last few years, the sprinters will the backbone of the team. Seven of the 16 participants in the ACC finals of the 50 and 100 freestyles were Seminoles, topped off by senior Joel Roycik as he earned All-ACC honors for his third-place finish in the 100 free. Roycik was one of only two Seminoles to reach the championship finals in all three individual events. Florida State capped the meet by winning the 400 freestyle relay.
Taking another big step last year was junior Alex Kennon as he made the finals of both the 50 and 100 freestyles for the first time in his career. Sophomore Ed Denton joined the fold in the 100 and 200 freestyles while nearly breaking the school record in the 200 freestyle when he led off the 800 free relay.
Also making big strides in the sprints last year was senior Stephan Connor and junior Brett Irvin. Connor was tenth in the 100 free and 12th in the 200 while Irvin was two spots better in the 200 free. Bolstering this group will be incoming sophomore Carl Marais. A transfer from Wyoming, he won the 200 free at the Mountain West Conference Championships and set three school records his freshman year.
A pair of sophomore All-ACC performers in the form of Billy Jamerson and Jarryd Botha head up the stroke squad that is loaded with young talent. Jamerson took second in both breaststroke events at the ACC Championships and had a pair of top-30 marks at the NCAA Championships. Despite joining the Seminoles at the semester, Botha produced a pair of top-eight finishes in the backstroke events at the league summit, including a third-place mark in the 200 back.
A jack of all trades, Roycik produced his second All-ACC honor last year when he took third in the 100 fly. Sophomore Danny Keeling is looking to build off his fifth-place finish in the 200 individual medley as is classmate Ian Powell after he took sixth in the 200 backstroke. Junior Paul Erben qualified for the 2008 US Olympic Trials over the summer and is shooting for All-ACC honors after taking sixth in the 100 breaststroke.
Also making big strides this summer was Connor in the butterfly and senior Jared Heine is poised to break into the finals of both backstroke events at the conference meet after consolation swims last year. Marais will be a fixture in the backstroke events and newcomer Michael Rice – a transfer from Florida – will give FSU a presence in the 200 butterfly.
If you asked the trivia question: Who had the most swimmers in the finals of the distance events at the ACC meet. Your first answer would probably be Virginia, but you’d only be partially right. Both the Cavaliers and the Seminoles had five swimmers apiece in the top eight of both the 500 and 1,650 free as the FSU distance group may have been the surprise of the meet to anyone not wearing Garnet & Gold.
Capped by Thomas Bishop’s record-setting, third-place 15:08.47 in the mile, the distance squad enjoyed one of its best ACC meets ever. Also getting under the old school mark in the 1,650 freestyle was Steve Roof and Kyle Young as all three finished in the top eight. Roof and Bishop made the finals of the 500 free where Roof tallied the second-best time in school history as he took fifth, two spots ahead of Bishop.
The trio took its show on the road to the NCAA Championships where FSU had three distance swimmers at the meet for the first time in school history. Bishop, Roof, Young and Jamerson joined together to earn Honorable Mention All-America honors in the 800 freestyle relay. The group is only going to get stronger this year with the addition of Bobby Langsett after he sat out last season in accordance with NCAA transfer regulations.
Following his first year without at least one All-ACC performer, diving coach Patrick Jeffrey got back on the board when freshman Alex Tilbrook took third on the three-meter. One of two Seminoles to score on both boards, he added a ninth-place performance on the one-meter and went on to place 20th at the NCAA Zone Meet.
Joining Tilbrook as the only other Seminole to score on both boards was junior Derek Jones as he continues to take big steps each year. He scored points with a 13th-place mark on the one-meter followed by a 16th-place tally during the three-meter board. Senior diving captain Peter Crane looks to break into the finals after taking 12th on the three meter as does classmate Jason Beinlich following a 15th-place finish on the one-meter.
Pushing the veterans will be two of the best incoming freshmen in the country. Scott Derner comes in from Grapevine, Texas, with three years of All-America awards and top-eight finishes at the Junior Olympic National meet. Dan Frebel has also been a finalist at the JO meet to go along with a pair of All-State honors from the Indiana High School Championships.
Only at Florida State would a down year be categorized by having just two ACC Champions and one All-American, but after the loss of six All-Americans from the year before, the 2004-05 season was a rebuilding campaign. With only one senior on this year’s squad, coach Harper has once again built a strong team to contend amongst the conference leaders for years to come. In addition to the ten point scorers from last year’s ACC Championships that return for the 2005-06 campaign, this year’s roster will be bolstered by one of the best women’s recruiting classes that Harper has ever put together.
Of the eight swimmers who scored at last year’s ACC meet, six made their mark in the stroke events. Leading this group was conference champion Lauren Brick in the 100 breaststroke and the junior returns to defend her title. With her victory last year, she has the chance to join All-American Chelsie Lerew as the only Seminole to win an event three years in a row. Brick had FSU’s best individual finish in the pool at the national championships, taking 24th in the 100 breast.
Sophomore Lindsay Kenney earned All-ACC honors as she took second in the 200 butterfly and broke the school record on her way to the NCAA Championships. She also made the consolation finals of the 200 IM. Despite joining FSU at the semester, junior Romy Altmann was in the top four of both backstroke events, including a third-place finish in the 200-yard backstroke in which she tied the school record. Another mid-season addition, Lauren Sparg made the finals of the 100 butterfly. Her classmates Kate Skaggs and Stacy Rademacher will look to move up in both backstroke events after consolation swims last year.
Florida State may take over the breaststroke like it has diving with the addition of three All-America breaststrokers. Ann Cipoletti won the 200 breast at the 2005 YMCA Short Course National Championships and was second in the 100 breast, while fellow newcomer Kylen Huntwork was third in both events. Caroline Robertson is an All-American in both the 100 breast and 200 IM. All-American and FHSAA state champion Christie Raleigh will bolster the 100 butterfly as will fellow All-American and FHSAA finalist Kelly Dean.
With a full year of swimming under her belt after a two-year absence, senior Carrie Ellis is poised for a tremendous senior year. Runner-up at the ACC meet and an NCAA participant in both 50 and 100 free, she became just the second Seminole to go under 50 seconds when she led off the 400 freestyle relay. Ellis was one of only two Seminoles to score points in all three individual events at last year’s conference championships.
Sophomore Abbie King will look to move into the finals of the 50 free after winning the consolation heat last year and classmates Sparg and Katie Metka should pick up valuable points following bonus heat swims last year. Altmann and Ellis scored points in the 200 freestyle last year and Kenney has the potential in the event after a 1:47.96 split in the 800 free relay. Newcomer Raleigh will reinforce the 50 and 100 freestyles after winning three sprint titles at the Florida High School state championships.
Just like in every other sport, the diving board has become a classic battle between Florida State and Miami. The Seminoles held on to their ACC supremacy last year with a pair of ACC titles, including the first by junior Brittany Lerew. Having laid claim to a conference title, she has her sights set on NCAA hardware as Patrick Jeffrey looks for his fifth-straight All-American on the heals of Courtney McClow’s performance last year. Joining the fold this year is freshman Carissa Hanna who is fresh off an All-State appearance at last year’s Pennsylvania State Championships.
The distance group was the hardest hit by graduation last year, but sophomore Elise Hatfield made huge strides at the ACC Championships where she posted all three of her best times of the year and nearly broke into the all-time FSU top ten list. Junior Katie Ronan made the bonus heat of both the 200 and 500 free last year and should be a point scorer this season.
Strengthening this group will be a pair newcomers with All-America credentials. Meredith Martelle was runner-up at last year’s North Carolina state meet following a strong showing at the 2004 US Senior National meet. Tennessee native Cameron Russell posted All-America times last season in both the 200 and 500 free and Oviedo’s Meghan Matherly has impressive All-America credentials as well.