Women look to reclaim top spot of conference

By Quinn Wilcox, Staff Writer

A new season begins a new chapter for the Utah swimming and diving team. The Utes will take to the pool this Friday in Boise, Idaho, under second year head coach Greg Winslow. The women’s team will face Boise State before both the men’s and women’s teams finish the invitational against a very strong Washington club. The first meet of the season looks to be very telling as the women will try to make it back to the top of the conference after a third-place finish last year. The men’s team will look to once again become a factor in the Mountain West Conference after going without a win in 2007-2008.

The Utah women’s team entered lastseason missing a lot of notable players because of graduation, and all that turnover in the roster resulted in a third place finish in the MWC for the Utes. But the team is hopeful that last season was a small step back to take a giant leap forward.

The core of the 2008 team will be sophomore Natalie Edge, juniors Beth Gunderson and Annie VanLeeuwen, and senior Jennifer Fredsall. Edge hopes to build off a very successful freshman year where she was the MWC champion in the 100-yard free. Fredsall is banking on her experience to help bring more first place finishes for the Utes. Last year, Fredsall finished first in the 100-yard butterfly and qualified for the Olympic Trials. Beth Gunderson also qualified.

Diving for the Utes will be sophomore Kwan Ling Yu. As a freshman last year, she became the third consecutive Ute to win the platform event. But Winslow warns to not count out this year’s freshmen.

“I would expect Hannah Caron, Sarah Cox and Whitney Lopus all to be factors this year,” Winslow said.

The women’s team certainly has the pieces in place to make a run at the MWC title. Last year’s team was very young, and the returning experience should make this year’s squad much stronger.

Winslow has high expectations for this year’s team.

“We have a real shot to make it into the top 20 with this group,” he said.

While the women are banking on experience, the Utah men are hoping that an infusion of new blood will give them the needed push to be a players in the conference.

“Three of our best swimmers this year are probably true freshmen, starting off with high school All-American Major Robinson, Eric Murray and Eric Bonnicelli,” Winslow said.

Robinson is a name Ute swimming fans should get used to hearing. The high school phenom out of Missoula, Mont., will swim the backstroke and freestyle for the Utes. Seniors Michel DeCarolis and Marco Ferraro will provide the experience. Ferraro set the school record at the MWC Championships last year in the 800 free relay. He was also named to the all-conference team. DeCarolis earned All-MWC honors in the breaststroke.

Look for the Utes to get a good idea about the state of their program in terms of the national scene when they take on Washington this week. The women husky team is ranked No. 24 and the men’s team figures to be strong as well.

“We go into every competition hoping to win, and the reason we schedule these meets is so that we get a true test of our character,” Winslow said.

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