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Swimming and Diving Begins Defense of 2008 Title
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 10/28/2008
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Oct. 28, 2008

On Deck

The top-ranked Arizona women’s and third-ranked men’s swimming and diving team open its defense of its 2008 national championship when it hosts Wisconsin at the newly refurbished Hillenbrand Aquatic Center Friday, Oct. 31 at 2 p.m.

 

Scouting the Badgers

The Wisconsin men were defeated by Iowa last week 166-134. They opened the season by topping UW Milwaukee. On the women’s side, the Badgers swept all 12 events in its opener against UW Milwaukee. Against Iowa, the women were victorious, besting the Hawkeyes 206-92. Most recently the Wisconsin women’s team placed fourth in the SMU classic. The Wisconsin women are ranked No. 23 in the CollegeSwimming.com poll. The Badger men just missed the top-25 and are tabbed No. 26.

 

Last Year against Wisconsin

Arizona used its superior depth in route to its first victory of the 2007-08 championship season with the women winning 166-128 and the men 172-116. Standout performances for the women included Lara Jackson and Hailey DeGolia who finished first in the 50 free and 100 back, respectively. For the men, Nicolas Nilo won the 50 free with a time of 20.70 and Marcus Titus won the 100 breast, posting a time of 56.19.

 

Wildcat/Badger History

This will be the eighth consecutive year Arizona will have hosted Wisconsin to begin its season. The women have not lost to the Badgers in that time span while the men were defeated only once—in 2002.

 

Year                Women                       Men

2001                W  163-119                 W  149-129    

2002                W  94-90                     L   24-98 

2003                W  172.5-128.5           W  175-121

2004                W  141-119                 W  160-99

2005                W  138.5-123.5           W  176-85

2006                W  158.5-132.5           W  165-111

2007                W  166-128                 W  172-116

2008                ??                                 ??

 

Head Coach Frank Busch

Entering his 20th year as head coach, Frank Busch has transformed the University of Arizona swimming and diving into one of the nation's most powerful programs. The 2007-08 season was a breakthrough for Busch and his charges, as both the men’s and women’s swim teams captured NCAA championship, the first two in school history.  Over the course of seven days the Wildcats used a team-first mantra to rise to the top of the collegiate swimming world in dominating fashion – the men prevailed by 94 points and the women triumphed by 136.  The squads combined to win two individual national championships, eight relay national championships and earn a total of 57 All-America accolades.  For his efforts, Busch earned both the men’s and women’s NCAA Coach-of-the-Year accolades, an honor he has earned six times in his career. Busch’s 2008 campaign was capped by a successful Olympic experience.  He was named an assistant coach for the United States swim team, where a total of 15 of his current or former swimmers participated and represented seven different nations at the Beijing Games.

 

Hillenbrand Aquatic Center

The new state-of-the-art diving structure and pool features two 1-meter and three 3-meter Maxiflex Model “B” springboards on concrete short stands. The structure has platform heights of 3, 5, 7.5, and 10 meters, each with Rough-Tex surfacing. The pool has built-in spray surface agitation and an air-sparging system under all platforms and two of the 3-meter springboards.  New equipment such as the digital video replay systems for both the springboards and platforms are sure to be a welcomed addition to both divers and fans alike. Another amenity fans are sure to enjoy is the expandable seating made to accommodate over 800 fans, as well as the Colorado Timing Systems full-color, high-resolution scoreboard. In between dives, the competitors will have access to the new walk-in hot tub and on-deck hot showers so they can prepare for their next event. The new diving pool is 25 meters across by 33 meters long, 17 feet deep, and holds 1.2 million gallons of water. It contains a fully recessed gutter system that is 12 inches from water line up to deck level.  The pool was built to meet all NCAA and Olympic specifications for Swimming, Diving and Water Polo.  This world class facility will surely be a key asset for the Wildcats in their quest for another NCAA championship.  

 

Cats in the rankings

In the first set of CollegeSwimming.com rankings, the Arizona women are billed as the top-ranked team. The Wildcats return an unprecedented 12 All-Americans, 24 letterwinners as well as an extremely talented group of newcomers. The team received 240 total points as well as all eight first place votes.

 

On the men’s side, they will begin the season ranked third overall. The men’s team, who received 227 total votes and one first place vote, has the daunting task of replacing two individual national champions.

 

They call her LJ

Lara Jackson is currently holds the Arizona All-Time Record in the 50 Yard Freestyle with a time of 21.69. Jackson will be a significant factor for the Cats in their hopes to repeat as champions.

 

Beijing Basson

Junior Jean Basson will look to use his performance in the 2008 Olympics as momentum going into the 2008-09 season. The South African placed fourth in the 200m free finals with American Michael Phelps taking gold. Basson is part of the long line of “South African Wildcats” and hopes to have the same success as those who have come before him.

 

 

2008 National Championship Recap

The 2007-08 season turned magical for Frank Busch and the Arizona swimming and diving program. After 19 years and multiple top-10 finishes, both the men’s and women’s teams finally got over the hump and won the national championships that had eluded them in previous seasons. Of the many key performances for both the men’s and women’s teams, the relays are what propelled each to their first respective national championship.  The women’s team finished its dual match season with a record of 9-1 heading into the Pac-10 Championships in Long Beach, Calif. There, the Wildcats received many stand-out performances as they took the conference crown with 1,501 points. After winning the Pac-10 title, the women’s team headed back to Tucson to recharge in preparation for the NCAA Championships in Columbus, Ohio. Once in Columbus, the Arizona women proved they were far superior then their competition. As a harbinger of things to come, the 200 freestyle relay team of Lara Jackson, Lacey Nymeyer, Anna Turner and Taylor Baughman won the event and the Cats never looked back. Through five events the Cats built a lead of 111 points – a lead they would not relinquish over the course of the Championships. In the 100 freestyle, UA had five swimmers place in the top 16 with Lacey Nymeyer winning the event with a time of 47.50 seconds.  In the final event of NCAA’s, with the title already clinched, the Cats turned in a what probably was the most fulfilling moment of the season in winning the 400 freestyle relay. Arizona’s final tally was 484 points, 136 points ahead of runner-up Auburn.

 

For the Arizona men, its path to the championship was slightly different than their female counterparts. The men went undefeated through its dual match season with key wins over Texas and Stanford. But when the Pac-10 Championships rolled around, the Cats faced tough competition from California and Stanford, and placed third overall.

Although they didn’t win the conference championship, Busch’s team had its sights set on the national title.  Once at the King County Aquatic Center, just outside of Seattle, Wash., then men, like the women’s team did a week before, used its superior depth and terrific relay teams to pull ahead. It would not be as clear cut as it had been for the Wildcat women , as Texas and Stanford remained competitive.  In the final event, the 400 freestyle relay, the Cats used a furious finish by sophomore Joel Greenshields to seal the win for and title for Arizona.  To cap the year, Busch was awarded NCAA Coach of the Year for both men’s and women’s swimming, Nymeyer won Pac-10 Female Swimmer of the Year and Ben Grado earned Pac-10 Diving Newcomer of the Year.

 

Women’s Preview

Coming off a year in which the program won its first NCAA title, Arizona head coach Frank Busch and his staff would like nothing better than to do it again. This year’s women’s team could possibly do just that. With 24 letterwinners returning, including 12 All-Americans, the Cats’ biggest weapon may once again be its tremendous depth.

 

“We have everyone that scored points for us during NCAA’s returning except Lacey Nymeyer and Jacquelyn Craft,” Busch said. “Now losing Lacey will be a big hurdle for our program, but the amount of depth in our women’s program is tremendous.”

 

With an abundance of experience back, Busch believes the team will begin the year as one of the favorites.

 

“When the first rankings come out this season, I’d be very surprised if Arizona wasn’t listed at the top,” said Busch. “I think our girls expect that and would be disappointed if they weren’t listed as the favorites.”

 

As confident as the team is heading into the 2008-09 season, Busch remains careful not to let the team become satisfied with the accomplishments of last season.

 

“What does being ranked no. 1 mean? It basically means that we had success in the past and we need to figure out how to have it again,” said Busch. “We can’t think that what we did last year will be good enough this year.”

 

Individuals the Cats will count on this season include seniors Lara Jackson, Taylor Baughman and Hailey DeGolia along with juniors Annie Chandler, Ana Agy and Caitlin Iversen.

 

“Lara Jackson, who is a returning national champion, will be key for us this year along with a lot of our returning girls on the relay teams,” said Busch. “Taylor Baughman will be counted on again in the freestyle relays along with Annie Chandler and Hailey DeGolia in the medley relays.”

 

A few newcomers that will help Arizona in its quest to repeat as champions include Auburn-transfer Julie Stupp and freshmen Alyssa Anderson.

 

“Stupp and Anderson were both finalists in a few events at the Olympic Trials, so they bring a tremendous amount of accomplishment to our program,” Busch said.

 

For the women divers, they will look to provide a vital component to the overall team strength. Freshman Ainsley Oliver is expected to be one of the key members along with senior Allison Scaife and sophomores Samantha Kunk and Danielle Ridgway.

 

Arizona is poised for another NCAA run in what will prove to be an exciting season at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center.

 

Men’s Preview

Last season, the Arizona men’s swimming and diving program was able to overcome every challenge thrown its way and achieve its first NCAA championship. If the team wants to do it again, several newcomers will counted on in big situations.

 

“We graduated some tremendous athletes,” said UA head coach Frank Busch. “You don’t graduate two individual national champions and expect some freshman to be able to come in and match that right away.”

 

Although this year’s men’s team doesn’t have the accolades earned on the way to the championship last season, Busch believes his 2008-09 team has what it takes to compete nationally.

 

“There’s just something special about this group,” said Busch. “They won’t have a lot of pressure as our women will have, but the All-Americans that we do have returning on the men’s side are some of the best in the world.”

 

The All-Americans that Busch talks about are juniors Jean Basson, Joel Greenshields and Jake Tapp along with senior Nicolas Nilo — all of whom competed this summer in the Beijing Olympics.

 

“Even with losing the type of athletes from the previous year’s team, we have some tremendous talent coming back. They are absolutely capable of achieving a lot of success. International experience is always a great way of learning”

 

Sophomore Cory Chitwood and junior Marcus Titus, runners-up in the 200 backstroke and 100 breaststroke at the NCAA Championships, respectively, also will weigh heavily on what the Cats accomplish this year.

 

As for the incoming freshman class, Busch doesn’t want to put expectations on their shoulders, but is excited to see how they perform on the collegiate level.

 

“I know our freshman our anxious to prove to everyone on the team that they are capable of doing what maybe no one thinks they can do.”

 

Ben Grado will lead the men’s diving team this year after being named the Pac-10 Diving Newcomer of the Year.

 

“Ben’s going to do some great things for us this year,” said Busch.

 

The roster may not include any NCAA individual champions, but the Wildcats might have just as much talent and experience as anyone in the nation and look to be the last team standing yet again in 2009.

 

 

 

Next up!

Arizona swimming will travel to Los Angeles the weekend of Nov. 14-15 to take on USC and UCLA. The Bruins do not have a men’s team so the Arizona men will compete against the Trojans twice.

 

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