March 29, 2006
GREENSBORO, N.C. – With the conclusion of the 2005-06 swimming and diving season, the Atlantic Coast Conference has named its post season award winners, which are voted on by the conference coaches. Florida State earned two individual honors as head coach Neil Harper was named Women’s Coach of the Year and Christie Raleigh (Boca Raton, Fla.) was named Women’s Freshman of the Year.
Neil Harper led the Seminoles to their best season ever at Florida State. At the NCAA National Championships, FSU finished 16th with 84 points which is the highest the Seminoles have ever finished. Harper coached four student-athletes to All-American honors and two more to Honorable Mention All-American honors. Florida State made history at the ACC Championships as they captured their first ever title with 596.5 points and had nine event champions. The Seminoles’ previous best finish at the ACCs was third which they had done on five occasions and most recently in 2004. Under Harper’s leadership this team set nine school records, two conference records and one ACC meet record over the course of the season.
“This is the biggest complement that the other coaches in the conference can give someone.” said Harper. “It will be there to remind me of the great year that we had as a team and a staff. When I look at the award it is something that we the team, the entire coaching staff and the whole department share together. You can’t accomplish something like that by yourself. It takes a big staff, a great team and everyone pulling and pushing together to get as far as we have.”
“Receiving this award is sort of a culmination of the great season that we have had. I think the biggest honor was the ACC Championship and our finish at the NCAAs because everybody, regardless of whether they scored points or not, contributed by being a great teammate; pushing each other and being their for each other.”
Christie Raleigh had an outstanding season for Florida State and she capped it off by earning All-American honors as a part of the Seminoles’ 200 medley relay that finished third at nationals. Raleigh also earned Honorable Mention All-American honors in three events. She won the consolation final of the 100 fly and was apart of the 400 medley relay that won the consolation final and the 400 free relay that finished 10th.
“We had four strong legs on that All-American relay that got third at nationals,” said Harper. “In the past, we have never had four strong legs and this year we finally put all of the pieces to the puzzle together. I think all four girls were thankful for the other three that were in that relay. Three of them still have a year or two to go and in Christie’s (Raleigh) case she has three. It is something special when you do that and I think it tells the rest of the conference and the country that FSU can put relays together and recruit individuals. We are just a couple of recruits away from being a perennial top 10 team.”
Raleigh played a key role in Florida State capturing its first ever ACC Championship as she earned six gold medals. She earned her first gold medal on the first night of action as she was a part of the Seminoles’ 200 medley relay that set a new conference, ACC meet and school record of 1:38.59. She would go on to earn three more gold medals as a part of the Seminoles’ 400 medley, 200 free and 400 free relays. Her two other gold medals came in individual events as she won the 50 free and 100 fly.
“For a freshman to come into a league like the ACC and do what she did was phenomenal,” said Harper. “FSU has built up a reputation of having some people win a few events and helping teams win relays and then go on to the big dance but usually they do that after a year of experience. Going through what most freshman student-athletes go through, there is a big learning curve. It is a hard process being away from home. She has had some ups and downs but when it was really on the line she came through for us every time.”
“I think it say a lot for her in terms of her toughness because typically you don’t see a freshman in a league such as the ACC perform at such a high level. She was instrumental for us doing well at the conference meet. This bodes well for her if she can take what she learned this year and continue to mature. I think she is going to just get better and continue to be a great swimmer.”