Young swimming team off to a fresh start

The men’s and women’s swimming programs have opened this season with hopes to rebound from a lackluster year in which the men finished fifth and the women seventh in the Mountain West Conference.

But this year they are battling a lack of senior experience and missing one of the key recruits for this year’s team.

“This team is going to get better every meet during the season,” said head coach Richard Sybesma. “It takes us all season to get in the type of shape we need to compete at the end of the year.”

Following last weekend’s meet against the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, the women have opened the year 2-0, and the men are 1-1 in dual meets this year. The women’s team beat the UTPB Falcons 145-73, while the men won 142-87.

The teams opened the season splitting a meet at home against Missouri State University, with the women winning 72-41 and the men losing their opener 67-46.

As expected, freshmen are playing a larger role this year for both teams as the teams have only six combined seniors.

“This year’s freshman class is different than last year’s in that it doesn’t seem like most of them specify,” said junior Josh Bagby. “They’re pretty good at everything, so I think that adds a lot of depth. We have a greater capacity to swim more events.”

Bagby was solid in the Missouri State meet, winning the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 21.50 and 100-yard freestyle at 46.44.

The women’s team has received an early boost courtesy of freshman Ashley Bolin.

Bolin had a fantastic performance in her first collegiate dual meet contributing to three wins including the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:08.91 and the 100-yard freestyle in a time of 52.31.

The freshmen also shined in the UTPB meet, as Kaitlyn Vann earned her second victory in the 100-yard fly, and Jennifer Oster, Zrinka Korac and Lindsey Stevens all earned their first collegiate wins.

“The freshmen have been awesome,” junior Stephanie Futscher said. “It has been really great to get to know them and see what their work ethic is like.”

Even with the rush of young talent, many standouts from previous years such as Bagby, Futscher, and sophomores Jeff Gettel and Maria Paula Alvarez are setting the tone for the team in new leadership roles this year.

Alvarez, who was already the TCU record holder in the 200-yard freestyle, 500-yard freestyle and 1000-yard freestyle, won both the 200-yard freestyle (1:53.75) and the 500-yard freestyle (5:01.00) in the Missouri State meet. Against UTPB, she added a win in the 100-yard freestyle (55.28), upping her win-total to three for the year.

Gettel contributed in three wins in the UTPB meet, including the 200-yard freestyle (1:48.35) and the 100-yard backstroke (53.01).

The men’s team is in need of a new dominant performer this year as Jonathon Berrettini graduated last year, leaving behind his TCU records in the 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke.

The team thought it had found a young replacement in freshman Edgar Crespo, who competed for Panama in the Beijing Olympics this past summer, but found out just before the season opened that Crespo would be ineligible due to NCAA rules.

“Some of the qualifying meets [Crespo] went to in order to qualify for the Olympics were not OK to go to by the NCAA standards,” Sybesma said. “We felt like the NCAA would be forgiving of that, since it is an Olympic year and his swimming federation in Panama said, ‘In order to go to the Olympics, you have to go to these meets to make your qualifying time.'”

The team challenged the NCAA ruling, but “were not given any ground,” according to Sybesma. The world-ranked Crespo will be eligible next year.

Even without the freshman, the men’s team does look like it could improve in conference this year.

“I believe we will be top-three in [the Mountain West] this year,” Bagby said.

The women have looked formidable so far and will also likely improve on last year’s finish.

“I really want to improve our place in conference from last year,” Futscher said. “I also think we can win more dual meets … [As far as personal expectations go] I just want a medal like I did freshman year. I just want my medal back.”