Oct. 9, 2003
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
It may seem like just yesterday that the Florida State University swimming and diving teams were wrapping up their season at the NCAA Championships, but the new campaign is already here. The Seminoles start the 2003-04 season Friday (October 10) when they play host to a 3 p.m. meet with the University of Miami and Florida A&M University at the Bim Stults Aquatic Center.
Entering his fifth year at Florida State, head coach Neil Harper expects to have two of the top teams during his Seminole tenure. The women’s program equaled its best showing at the Atlantic Coast Conference meet with a third-place finish. On the men’s side the Seminoles are looking to take the next step after finishing second at the league summit.
“We’re looking forward to getting into the water against someone other than ourselves,” Harper said. “There’s more pressure when you line up on the blocks against someone wearing a different suit and we want to see how our kids react.”
Florida State’s women’s team is by far the strongest under Harper and will be one of the contenders for the conference title. The Seminoles return 16 letterwinners from a squad that finished 12-2 the year before. Last season the women’s program produced two individual conference champions and two relay titles.
Heading up the list of returnees for the women are four swimmers and one diver who boast NCAA All-America honors. Seniors ACC champions Emma Dutton (Bradford, England / Betton Park) and Andree-Anne LeRoy (Nanaimo, British Columbia / Nanaimo District Secondary) both set school records on their way to All-America honors. Senior Loren Hansen (Pensacola, Fla. / Washington) and junior Emily Breen (Savannah, Ga. / H.V. Jenkins) also earned All-America status for their part on the 200 freestyle relay.
On the board, diving coach Patrick Jeffrey has one of his strongest squad. Ten-meter platform All-American Tiffany Manning (Mission Viejo, Calif. / Capistrano Valley) is back for her junior year, as well as junior ACC champion Courtney McClow (Jacksonville, Fla. / Forrest). Joining the team this year will be rookie Brittany Lerew (Orlando, Fla. / Lake Highland), the sister of former FSU All-American Chelsie Lerew.
Leading the effort for the men in the pool is senior Wickus Nienaber (Simugye, Swaziland / Cornerstone). Last season he notched two top-30 performances at the NCAA meet, taking 18th in the 100 breaststroke while adding a 26th-place finish in the 200-yard event. Nienaber broke the school record in the 200 breast with a time of 1:58.30 at the conference championships.
The Seminoles will get a lot of use out of All-ACC freestylers Michael Paulus (Somerset West, South Africa / Paul Roos Gym) and Joel Roycik (Winter Park, Fla.). Junior Sam Hood (Philadelphia, Pa. / Perkiomen Valley) is tops on the board after an appearance at the NCAA Diving Zone Qualifier.
Even though the men bring back 16 letterwinners from a team that equaled the school record with an 11-2 mark, they a strong influx of new talent. Freshman Tommy Bishop (Houston, Texas / Cy-Creek) was one of the top high school distance swimmers in the country, while classmate Stephen Roof (Canton, Ohio / Central Catholic) will bolster the freestyle and butterfly events.
Friday’s meet is the first of three-straight home contests for the Seminoles.