Let the all sports party continue! This week, we head inside probably one of the top 10 pools in the entire country to review the swimming and diving squads at Mizzou. That will leave us with just the spring sports and wrestling, which should still receive it's own one of these at some point. That should take us right until when exhibition soccers kicks off in the middle of August. We'll also throw some random thoughts in there, especially off of my trip this past weekend down to the STEAMY HOT Memphis.
Men's Swimming and Diving
Swimming and Diving is a tough sport to really gauge. A bit different from track in that you have dual meets (though you will see that Outdoor Track brought those back this season), but your record still does not necessarily reflect everything about the type of season you had. Individual performance still certainly dictate other aspects of how your season is viewed, especially because in men's swimming in the Big XII, there are only three schools taking to the pool...and one of them is Texas who is a national power. Mizzou stepped up and completed their season with an 11-2 record, a top 25 ranking at the finish and two divers at the NCAA Championships, including one All-American. First a look back, then a look ahead...
Looking back. Mizzou did not have a very large, or really all that successful graduating class of seniors. Of the group of 27, only six will be leaving the squad. Of those who contributed this past season, Brandon Lee made some noise in the 200 breast stroke, Lex Howard helped out in the 100 free relay and co-captain Travis Floyd earned some wins in the 200 back stroke. Last but not least was Ted Harris, who did qualify for the Olympic trials in the 100 meters. There were so few seniors that Mizzou had a junior co-captain, and will also be bringing in a recruiting class of ten which we will touch upon in a little bit. However, it is a nice accomplishment to finish up with by saying you helped lead the squad to their best ever dual record and a national ranking.
Now let's turn our attention to the talent which will be returning, which should be plentiful. Starting in the diving well, Mizzou placed two into the NCAA Championships, and future junior Greg DeStephen took home 12th place and AA honors in the 3 meter event, including having won the regional competition to get there. Sophomore-to-be Dante Jones also dove at the NCAA well and should pair with DeStephen to be a powerful duo for another two seasons to come. Back in the pool, senior to be Gilad Kaufman set a school record at the Big XII Championships in the 100 fly (which was good enough for 6th...yes...a school record was only 6th best when playing UT and aTm). A number of frosh impressed on the season, including Spence Lauver in the 1000 meter, Jordan Hawley in the 100 meter free relay and RS Frosh Cameron Sellers in the 500 free.
As mentioned earlier, a recruiting class of TEN Mizzou male swimmers will head to Columbia this fall. One of them will be another international swimmer (Kaufman is from Israel) in Jan Konarzewski from Poland, who specializes in the 200 backstroke and is already two seconds ahead of the school record in the event. Scott Martin from Columbus, OH looks to be a player on a number of relay teams, and Jack Dwyer was plucked out of Texas to also help on the sprints. The class is made up of entirely swimmers, as the diving well will return three divers to Coach Jamie Sweeney.
Mizzou is going to take on a national schedule next year, with tough matchups against aTm and Indiana. The squad will also host the Big XII Championships this year, along with an NCAA Regional Diving Meet. The Tigers have defeated aTm previously at the Big XII Relays, but it needs to happen in either the dual or the Championships. Beating Texas is just flat not going to happen (they swim Olympians there), but the next step will be to improve their national ranking and take down the Aggies for the 2nd spot. Can they do it? With the strength returning in the diving well and the fire power on deck returning, I think they have a really good chance to do so.
Women's Swimming and Diving
Even younger than the men, the women had just slightly a better season as it pertained to national rankings. The squad of 30 will be graduating just five seniors and welcoming 7 additional athletes this coming fall, and they have quite the 2007-2008 to try to top. Finishing with a program best record and climbing to 18th nationally, their highest record ever. The ladies would send just one to the NCAA Championships, but she would manage to come away with TWO All-American honors, and will be returning to the well for more come 2008-2009.
Taking a glimpse at the departing talent from the Tigers, Mizzou will exit five seniors from the squad. Leading the list is Jill Bastien, who was not only an Academic All-Big XII award (which is pretty common on both squads), but also an accomplished breaststroker. In fact, four of the departing seniors were academic All-Big XII their junior seasons. Certainly impressive to see the leadership showing the underclassmen how to balance both school and sport.
But hey, let's be honest, the bread and butter are the IN-pool accomplishments, and many underclassmen had a number of stellar performances this season. You have to start with senior-to-be Kendra Melnychuk, who became the first Mizzou diver (male or female) to finish top 10 nationally and the first to ever claim two All-American honors in the same season. Senior-to-be Lori Halverson also impressed on the season, leading the 800 free relay team to a 2nd place finish at the Big XII's while shaving an amazing 11 seconds off of the school record time (while providing a school record split on her leg). Halverson would end up qualifying for the Olympic Trials in the 50, 100 and 200 meter freestyle. Another soon to be senior Jill Granger joined her teammate at the Trials in the 200 meter fly. Other younger-classmen who impressed this season were junior-to-be Colleen Gordon and soon to be sophomores Lauren Lavigna and Francie Szostak in the 800 meter relay. Gordon also took 2nd in the national open-water swimming Championships in the spring.
Being added to the Tiger lineup will be two divers and five swimmers. With three future sophs on the squad with the senior Melnychuk, Mizzou will add Jr. Olympic finalists Christina Gailey and Jordan Marcom who was stolen out of Texas. Back in the pool, sprinter freestylist Lisa Nathanson joins from Iowa and is highly decorated, as is Stephanie Rovig in the 200 free. Emy DiBenigno from Indiana is all sorts of versatile in the breast, fly and individual medley events.
The Mizzou women, like the men, will take on a tough docket in a tough conference. Mizzou will of course host the Big XII Championships and Regional Diving event, both of which they should look for champions from. They will also take on Indiana, whose women finished 22nd last season. The women just edged out kU last season for 3rd, and will hopefully be able to improve upon that standing. I dont believe they are as close to 2nd as the men are (which is interesting since the women are ranked a hair higher), but Mizzou should look to return Melnychuk to AA status as well as adding a couple of swimmers (perhaps Halverson and Gordon) to the NCAA meet as well. Either way, expect the ladies to be in the top 25 all season and potentially improve upon their highest ranking ever of 18th.
- As predicted, good LORD it was hot this weekend down in Memphis. Always a lovely time though, especially when you have two nights on Beale, lunch at Rendezvous and dinner at Dyers.
- Saw the Memphis Redbirds vs. the Omaha Royals. Cannot say there is a lot of talent on either squad right now, though I guess with the Cards, most people are already up. AutoZone Park is perfectly placed downtown and a nice little stadium...it just so damn hot.
- Well...been quite the week for the Mets, and nine wins in a row is some way to finish the 1st half. I would have really had to chuckle if the Phils had fallen and the Mets would have ended the 1st half a game up when they TOTALLY did not deserve it.
- In the previous 5 games prior to the shut out last night, the Mets gave up 3 hits or less in each game.....the first team ever to do that since 1900. Yes, games against San Francisco and Colorado at home dont really count, but that is still impressive....4 shutouts in 6 games, the other games had 1 run and 3 runs. And Mike Pelphrey seems to finally be figuring out this pitching thing of late.
- Enough about the Mets....less than 7 weeks until Mizzou football...cannot wait.
- Ian Kinsler with two more doubles and 3-5 on Sunday to take a 25-game hitting streak into the All-Star break. If only Texas was better. Because that (and maybe some of his glovework) may be what keeps him from AL MVP this year, though as The Boy already linked, ESPN felt he deserved it for the first half.
- Oh...and the AFL highlight of the Philadelphia Soul kick returner hurdling the Cleveland Gladiator kicker Chase Coffman-style makes me chuckle each time I see it. Heimburger's season comes to an end.