This Week's Schedule: After completing their annual Christmas training regimen last week, the No. 2 ranked Arizona women's swimming and diving squad will ring in the new year by hosting the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs on Friday, Jan. 14 beginning at 2:00 p.m. at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center. The Wildcat women (5-0 overall, 1-0 in the Pac-10) will then continue their dual-meet schedule as they play host to the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks on Saturday, Jan.15 at 1:00 p.m.
Georgia enters the meet fresh off a 130-120 victory over the No. 9 SMU Mustangs last Saturday to maintain their unblemished dual meet record and improve to 5-0 on the year. The Bulldogs are also the defending NCAA Champions after claiming the 1999 title in their home pool at the Gabrielsen Natatorium in Athens. The NAU women's squad is coming off a 161-136 loss to visiting Colorado State at the Wall Aquatic Center in Flagstaff on Jan. 6, falling to 3-8 overall. The Jacks will also face San Diego State in a dual meet to be contested in Phoenix on Jan. 13 before their arrival in Tucson.
Last Time Out: The Arizona swimming team returned from the Lone Star State after a weekend of numerous accomplishments. During the three-day, University of Texas at Austin Invitational, the Wildcats amassed 28 NCAA automatic qualifying times, 18 separate event titles and established two American records, four U.S. open records, seven meet records and broke three school records.
Due to the caliber of athletes that are present at the meet each year, it is widely considered a preview to the NCAA Championships, which will be held in March. In addition to many of the top athletes, six of the Top-25 men's teams in the country and eight of the women's teams also participated. In total, 426 men and women, from 14 different universities competed over the course of the weekend.
Reviewing Last Year: The women ended the 1998-99 season with 10-1 dual-meet record (4-1 in Pac-10) and finished fourth at the 1999 NCAA Championships. The women also return 20 letterwinners from last year's squad, including 11 All-Americans, while losing only one point-scorer from last year's NCAA team.
The men's team, led by 1999 NCAA Division I Swimmer of the Year Ryk Neethling, returns 18 letterwinners from last year's fifth place team, including 12 All-Americans, while losing no point-scorers from last year's NCAA team. This year's men's team will also feature 10 seniors, the largest class during the 11-year era of head coach Frank Busch.
Cats in the Polls: The men enter the meet ranked No. 3 in the nation in the Jan. 6 edition of the Speedo America College Swimming Coaches Association Top-25 poll, while the Arizona women are ranked second in the nation. On the women's side, the Wildcats trail only defending-champion Georgia, while the men find themselves behind No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Stanford.
Other Pac-10 men's teams in the rankings include the Stanford at No. 2, No. 5 California, No. 6 USC, and Arizona State in the No. 12 spot. In the women's poll, Stanford is No. 3, USC No. 4, California No. 5, UCLA No. 14 and ASU at No. 18.
Summer 1999; Wildcats Around the Globe: The Arizona men's and women's swimming teams recently completed a busy summer that showcased Wildcat athletes in action in four different countries, on three different continents.
At the 1999 Pan Pacific Games in Sydney, Australia two current Wildcats showcased their skills as members of the United States squad, while another competed for South Africa. The competition took place August 23-29, at the Olympic swimming venue that will be used during the 2000 Olympic Games.
Arizona senior Ryk Neethling, the 1998-99 NCAA Division I Swimmer of the Year, added to his list of accolades by earning three medals for his native South Africa. He started the competition on day one by claiming the bronze medal in the 400-meter freestyle by clocking a 3:46.31 and followed with another third place finish on day three, in the 200-meter freestyle (1:48.17). Already the most decorated male swimmer in school history, Neethling garnered a silver medal in the 1,500-meter freestyle by swimming a 15:02.40, on the final day of competition.
Wildcat junior Jay Schryver also competed in this prestigious event by taking part in the 50-meter freestyle (23.24), 100-meter freestyle (50.82) and the 200-meter freestyle (1:51.69).
On the women's side, UA sophomore Sarah Tolar placed in all three events that she entered. Tolar's biggest accomplishment of the weekend came when she advanced the finals of the 200-meter freestyle on day three and finished in seventh place overall, by clocking a 2:01.14. Day two saw Tolar swim a 4:22.39 in the 400-meter freestyle, to finish in 16th place and on day five she finished 10th in the 100-meter freestyle (56.77).
The most impressive performance of the summer came at the 1999 Pan American Games (August 1-7) in Winnipeg, Canada, as four Arizona swimmers hauled in a total of seven medals, while competing in only nine events.
Arizona senior Denali Knapp lead the way for the Cats as she set two Pan American Games records and came away with two gold medals and one silver. The first record came in the 200-meter backstroke, as Knapp finished in a time of 2:12.48, ahead of Wildcat teammate, freshman Beth Botsford, who clocked a 2:12.95, to earn the silver medal. In the 4x100-meter medley relay Knapp lead off the race by swimming the backstroke leg in a time of 1:01.85, helping the United States team to a Pan American games record time of 4:06.08 and the gold medal. Knapp also swam to a silver medal in the 100-meter backstroke with a time of 1:02.45, while Botsford earned the bronze in the same race (1:02.48).
The highlight on the men's side belonged to senior Matt Allen who medaled in two separate Pan American events. Allen earned a silver medal as a member of the 4x100-meter medley relay squad, as he lead off with a backstroke leg time of 55.84. Meanwhile, in the 100-meter backstroke Allen finished in third place, after swimming a time of 55.86. Fellow Arizona senior Nat Lewis competed in two distance freestyle events at the games, finishing fourth in the 1,500-meter freestyle (15:44.15) and eighth in the 400-meter freestyle (3:58.99).
On the island of Palma de Mallorca, Spain (July 8-13) four Wildcat athletes earned four medals and joined thousands of athletes from around the globe, to experience the magic of the World University Games.
Wildcat sophomore Katie Zimbone acquired the first of her two medals, as she swam the leadoff leg (2:03.19) of the gold-medal winning 800-meter freestyle relay squad. Arizona teammate, sophomore Caroline Kilian swam the third leg (2:04.74) of that same relay to take home a gold medal of her own. Zimbone garnered her second medal as she finished third in the 400-meter freestyle, in a time of 4:17.30. Also on the women's side, freshman Amanda Beard, the American record holder in the 100-meter breaststroke, earned a silver in that same event, by racing to a 1:10.23.
The Arizona men were represented by senior Rob Henikman, who placed 10th in the 100-meter breaststroke, in a time of 1:03.94.
Golden Newcomers: Beth Botsford, a Garrison Forest High School product (Timonium, Md.), who was a double gold-medalist at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, is beginning her first year at the University of Arizona this season. Botsford, who swam for North Baltimore Aquatics was the 1996 Olympic champion in the 100 meter backstroke in 1996 and was also a member of the gold medal-winning 400 meter medley relay squad at the Olympic Games. She is currently a member of the 1998-99 United States National Team, which is comprised of USA swimmers who rank in the top-eight in the world in their respective events. Botsford was also a World Championships team member in 1998 and holds the distinction of being the 12th fastest woman ever in the 200 backstroke (2:10.66).
Irvine (Calif.) High School swimmer Amanda Beard, who won a gold medal and two silvers at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta is another freshman newcomer to the UA swimming program. Beard, who has swam for the Irvine Novaquatics club team for the last eight years, won silver medals in the 100 and 200-meter breaststroke at the Atlanta Games and won the gold on the United States' 400-meter medley relay. She is the American record holder in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:08.09 in 1996 and is a three-time U.S. national champion.
Next Time Out: On Friday, Jan. 21 the UA men and women will swim the fifth-ranked California Golden Bear men and fifth-ranked women, in Berkeley beginning at 1 p.m. (PST). On Saturday, Jan. 22 the Cats will continue their Bay Area road trip with a visit to Palo Alto and a 12 noon (PST) match-up with the No. 2 Stanford men and No. 3 women.