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Get to know these Mizzou athletes for 2015-16

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If you haven't been paying attention to this series, start now: The Trib's Blake Toppmeyer is counting down the 20 most important Olympics sports (or whatever you want to call the sports that aren't football and men's basketball) athletes who will be donning the Mizzou black & gold this coming athletic season. He's almost halfway through the list, and I wanted to celebrate what he's doing here.

No. 20 Emily Crane (softball)

Crane started every game in 2015, and Coach Ehren Earleywine can plan to pencil her into right field and the No. 2 slot in the lineup every game next year and let her go to work. She’ll supply four good at-bats per game. She’s a good contact hitter who hits for a good average while showing occasional power. She’s a tremendous bunter and has great speed. She has too many tools to go into a prolonged slump.

One of Switzy's personal favorites.

No. 19 Abby Duncan (women's swimming & diving)

Coach Greg Rhodenbaugh has built a strong presence in the breaststroke -- on both the men's and women's teams -- during his Missouri tenure, and Duncan should lead MU's charge in the breaststroke events as a senior. She has a good counterpart in the form of rising junior Katharine Ross, her teammate who is often Duncan's top competition in the 100 breaststroke.

The Auburn transfer was an All-American this year.

No. 18 Candace Johnson (soccer)

Maybe the most telling way to illustrate Johnson's impact in 2014 is to point out how Missouri's defense performed in the one game she didn't play. Johnson sat out MU's Oct. 26 game at Tennessee with a quad injury. The sub-.500 Volunteers beat MU 3-0.

All four starting defenders return for Bryan Blitz this fall, though stalwart goalkeeper McKenzie Sauerwein does not.

No. 17 Paige Lowary (softball)

Lowary came to Missouri as a power pitcher with velocity that hovered around 70 mph. In high school, she threw nearly all fastballs. MU’s coaching staff worked with her to develop her drop-ball, rise-ball and changeup. If Lowary’s spins improve as her career develops, she could become a major force, given her elite velocity

It was an up-and-down year of sorts for both Lowary and Tori Finucane. But they were a freshman and sophomore, respectively. They've got two years for everything to click and for Mizzou to have maybe the best 1-2 pitching punch in the SEC.

No. 16 Fabian Schwingenschlogl (men's swimming & diving)

Schwingenschlogl is coming off a big sophomore season that saw him place sixth at the NCAA Championships in the 100-yard breaststroke in 51.66 seconds, good for the second first-team All-American finish of his career.

The WKU transfer landed at Mizzou after the Hilltoppers suspended their program. As Toppmeyer points out, the five players who finished ahead of him in the 100m breaststroke all graduated.

MU Olympic sports VIT countdown: No. 15 Sophie Cunningham - Columbia Daily Tribune | Columbia Missouri: Tiger Tidings

A four-year star for one of the greatest dynasties in MSHSAA history, Cunningham finished her career as the Bruins’ all-time leading scorer with 1,983 points. She became Columbia's first McDonald's All-American, and she will be the first player with that distinction in MU's program history.

MU Olympic sports countdown: No. 14 Reggie McClain - Columbia Daily Tribune | Columbia Missouri: Tiger Tidings

McClain was named the SEC pitcher of the week three times. He finished with a 7-7 record and 3.56 ERA in 101 innings. He struck out 80 against 19 walks. Before the start of the NCAA Tournament, McClain ranked second in the SEC in innings, third in shutouts and third in complete games.

Man, Mizzou's got some pretty nice pieces returning next spring.

MU Olympic sports countdown: No. 13 Lavion Mayes - Columbia Daily Tribune | Columbia Missouri: Tiger Tidings

It'll be interesting to see if Missouri considers bumping Mayes up to 149 pounds, where he wrestled during his redshirt season. MU has an opening there after the graduation of national champion Drake Houdashelt.

Mizzou loses Houdashelt, Alan Waters, Johnny Eblen, and Mikey England but returns a boatload of awesomeness -- J'Den Cox, Joey Lavallee, etc. Mayes could be the hinge between another top-10 team and another top-4 team.

MU Olympic sports countdown: No. 12 Amanda Sanchez - Columbia Daily Tribune | Columbia Missouri: Tiger Tidings

How's this for a freshman season? Sanchez claimed Missouri's starting third-base job, batted cleanup for the Tigers and posted a .347 batting average with 14 home runs and 56 RBI. She was in the starting lineup for every game.

Remember in previous seasons, when the offense didn't quite have enough weapons? Sanchez and Sami Fagan made those doubts all but disappear. We've got three more seasons of Slamchez.