March 15, 2011
--No. 10 Arizona women's swimming and diving takes 12 athletes (11 swimmers, 1 diver) to this year's NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas.
--The Wildcats have placed among the top four "in the wood" seven consecutive seasons, a mark which currently leads all Division I teams.
--Of the 12 UA NCAA participants, eight are underclassmen with exactly half the squad competing as true freshmen.
Live times, streaming coverage and an interactive blog will be available throughout each session of the NCAA Championships by logging on to www.ArizonaWildcats.com and accessing the Swimming & Diving page.
The meet this week will run from Thursday through Saturday with prelims beginning at 11 a.m. CT and finals later in the evening at 7 p.m. CT. Click here for the NCAA Championships page.
FINAL NCAA TRIPS
In February, head coach Frank Busch announced he'd be resigning at Arizona to accept the National Team Director position with USA Swimming. In 22 seasons at Arizona, Busch has transformed the program into one of the nation's elite. Guiding his swimmers to 48 individual national titles, 31 relay championships, and a pair of team national championships in 2008, Busch takes over his new role after becoming one of the sport's finest collegiate coaches.
The Wildcats this season have quite the group of freshmen sprinters. Entering the program billed as the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation, the group of Margo Geer, Kait Flederbach, Grace Finnegan, Sarah Denninghoff and Aubrey Peacock have not disappointed, all earning NCAA trips in their first season. Four of the five mentioned could likely be a part of at least one relay as was the case in the 200 freestyle relay at the Pac-10 Championships in February. Geer looks to be the sprint leader but Denninghoff, Finnegan and Flederbach along with Peacock form a formidable quintet. With the group's first NCAA run, it should be fun to watch how their careers progress.
LAST YEAR AT NCAA'S
Last season at the NCAA Championships in West Lafayette, Ind., the Cats rose up to win three events and take fourth place overall with 359.5 in the closest NCAA meet in recent history. Arizona won both the medley relays in 2010 spurred on by Annie Chandler's swift breaststroke splits. The 400 medley relay title was UA's third in as many seasons and fourth in five years. The 200 medley was the second in three years. Individually, Chandler proved to be just as stellar, winning the 100 breaststroke with an NCAA record time of 58.06. Other top eight individual All-Americans in 2010 included Ana Agy, Alyssa Anderson, Ellyn Baumgardner, Erin Campbell, Caitlin Iversen and Leone Vorster. Departed senior Justine Schluntz was also instrumental for Arizona, swimming on four relays and scoring in three individual events.
QUITE THE FREESTYLER
Junior Alyssa Anderson serves as one of the captains for this youthful Arizona team and will be looked upon for her prior experience swimming at the NCAA meet. Anderson, from Granite Bay, Calif., had an excellent dual meet season including being named the Counsilman-Hunsaker National Collegiate Swimmer of the Week in February. A U.S. National teamer who will swim in the World University Games this summer in Shenzhen, China, Anderson will swim in the 500 free, 200 fly and 200 free this week for the Wildcats in addition to the 800 free relay. Of particular note, watch Anderson and her younger sister, Haley of USC, go up against some SEC stalwarts in the 500 free on day one in what should be a very fast race.
ANY PRONUNCIATION, SHE'S FAST
While her teammates and coaches refer to her with a plethora of nicknames, freshman Margo Geer is most often described in one word -- fast. The Milford Center, Ohio native came to Arizona as a highly-touted recruit out of Fairbanks HS and has lived up to the lofty expectations. Named the Pac-10 Swimmer of the Month in November, Geer ranks among the quickest in the country in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle events. This week look for Geer to be featured on at least a few of the Arizona relays as well.
TAKING THE NEXT STEP
After a freshman season where she placed third overall in the 100 breaststroke, Ellyn Baumgardner looks to be UA's breaststroke weapon on relays in addition to her individual events. After learning from one of the best in departed senior Annie Chandler, Baumgardner has had a solid season and is the highest returning individual point scorer from 2010. Capable of breaking 59 seconds, Baumgardner could be UA's most serious threat to claim an individual national championship.
MUCH MORE THAN `SLIM' PICKENS
Although Coach Busch takes her moniker from the actor in Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove", freshman diver Samantha Pickens looks to come up large for Arizona in the points category. Earning her way to NCAA's in her first season through Zone E trials, Pickens will dive off both the 1-meter and 3-meter springboards this week in Austin. Last week at Zone E's, Pickens was fourth off the 3-meter and sixth on 1-meter. Her efforts off the boards could vault the Cats up into the potential top four positions.
When freshman backstroke / freestyle swimmer Sarah Denninghoff chose to attend Arizona, she did so in part for the comforts of being able to stay in Tucson, her hometown. That decision looks to be paying off for Denninghoff as she's had a solid first season, ranking among the country's leaders in backstroke events as well as likely being on several Arizona relays at NCAA's. Aspiring to be like another Tucson native who chose to swim at UA, Lacey Nymeyer, the 2009 NCAA Woman of th Year and individual national champion, Denninghoff looks to be on her way.
ARIZONA'S SENIOR FLYER
Senior captain Dana Christ is the only four-year swimmer this season on the NCAA roster for the Wildcats and she'll look to make her final championships meet her best. Christ will be on UA's medley relays and swim individually in both the 100 and 200 butterfly events. Her guidance and leadership will serve some of her younger teammates well during the ups and downs of the three-day meet.
ALWAYS A THREAT
If there's one thing that's come to be expected of a Frank Busch-led team at the NCAA Championships, it's that they always come prepared to swim their absolute best. Choosing to get NCAA time standards out of the way in December, Arizona often shaves the most of any team off its seed times and is always a threat to win. Since 2004, the Arizona women have earned a trophy at each NCAA meet and will look to continue that amazing run in Busch's final season at the helm. While swimming pundits can often peg who will win a particular event, its commonly known to always expect Arizona to be at the top of its game here at the NCAA's. Lets see what they're capable of this year.