Oct. 14, 1999
When Michael Chasson was named Head Coach of the Arizona State men's swimming program in May of 1998, he stated that ASU is a school where being amongst the top five should be a goal every year.
Now Chasson faces the same challenge with the Sun Devil women's team.
Having a full season to work with the ASU women in 1999-2000, odds are Chasson will lead the squad to an improvement upon last year's 23rd place national finish. Four All-Americans return from a team which posted a 6-4 dual match record and sixth place showing at the Pac-10 Championships, including the versatile Carolyn Adel and top breaststroker Riley Mants. In addition, the coaching staff was able to land a number of highly-touted newcomers despite not having the luxury of a full recruiting period.
"We were able to get four quality women that will help our team be a better team overall," said Chasson. "I think for our first half-year of recruiting, I'm very happy with what we did."
Chasson and Co. did find time to line up another tough schedule to prepare Arizona State for the postseason. The Sun Devils welcome Pac-10 foes UCLA, USC and arch rival Arizona to the Mona Plummer Aquatics Center and will travel to highly competitive meets at Texas and Northwestern, among others.
"The women's schedule, like the men's, is very strong. In the Pac-10 alone we've got six teams in the top 16," said Chasson. "They'll probably swim against seven teams in the top 10."
The coaching staff hopes for increased productivity from the sprint freestylers in 1999-2000, and may get it from a pair of Sarahs. Sophomore Sarah Baham posted solid times in the 50 (23.95) and 100 (51.71) last year, both ranking second on the team. Meanwhile senior Sarah Adams should return to her 1997-98 form when she recorded the Sun Devils' top times in both the 50 (23.66) and 100 (51.26) free. The top 50 free artist a year ago, Tennille Taylor (23.94) will again contribute in the event, as will sophomore Alicia Wheelock.
Adel gives the Devils great flexibility with her ability to compete in four different free events. Last season the senior eclipsed her personal best in the 100 free at 50.77, ranking fifth in ASU history. Her 200 (1:48.29) and 500 (4:49.68) times were also personal bests, and place her third and eighth on the all-time lists, respectively. Adel will be one of the team's top 1650 swimmers as well.
Nearly as versatile is senior Casey Murphy, who enjoyed her finest season in 1998-99 and left her mark on Sun Devil history. The co-captain will lead the distance corps into battle, having gained experience from a 15th place showing at the NCAA's in the 1650 (16:37.52). That time ranks her sixth in ASU history In addition, Murphy is the fifth-fastest Sun Devil ever in the 500 free at 4:48.06, and is a strong 100, 200 and 1000 artist as well.
"Casey did really well at the end of the season," said Chasson.
"Hopefully she can improve on that since we've had a few months to work with her."
Stephanie Elwonger hopes to improve upon a 1:51.33 showing in the 200 free during her senior year, while Wheelock (4:58.80) and junior Anne Rogalla (5:01.34) provide depth in the 500.
A combination of returning and incoming athletes will make the Sun Devil backstrokers a formidable group. Junior Lauren Morelli appears ready for a breakout season swimming the second-fastest 100 back time in ASU history (56.07). In addition Morelli is the team's top returnee in the 200, having posted a time of 2:00.25 last year.
Expected to make an immediate impact is sophomore transfer Karrianne Kalbko, who gained valuable experience competing for the University of Michigan in 1998-99.
"She should be able to make NCAA's in a couple events," said Chasson. "I'm excited about having her because she's such a great workout swimmer. We need more people who are great trainers to raise the level of our training."
While not her specialty, Adel will help strengthen the backstroking unit as she aims to improve on her times of 58.38 and 2:02.25 in the 100 and 200, respectively. The versatile Wheelock should post some solid dual meet scores in the 100 while junior Kelli Sasada has the ability to do the same in the 200.
"Oh Canada" may become a familiar tune around the Mona Plummer Center if Mants can build on her outstanding freshman season. The native of Winnipeg, Manitoba established herself as one of the best 200 breast swimmers in the nation after placing fourth (1:2:12.47) at the NCAA Championships and earning All-America honors. That time ranked second all-time at Arizona State, as did her 100 breast mark of 1:02.44, which placed her 11th at the NCAA's. Mants has a legitimate shot at the Pac-10 championship in both events after finishing second in the 200 and fifth in the 100 a year ago.
Adding to the team's deepest group of swimmers are two freshmen who will likely contend at the NCAA's in their rookie campaigns. Karyl Johnson has already qualified for the Olympic trials in the 200 breast, while Josie Jedick was a runner-up in the 100 at the Junior Nationals two years ago.
"Josie is a top breaststroke talent. She's got great technique," said the second-year head coach. "I really like her stroke a lot, she's got a lot of speed."
Senior co-captain Alyson Miller will provide leadership to the young breaststrokers, and try to improve upon her personal best of 2:18.14 in the 200 as well. Sophomore Jen Lowe can swim both events, but will specialize in the 100.
The Sun Devils have the luxury of returning Baham, the school record holder in the 100 fly at 23.95, for three more seasons. In addition, her 200 fly time of 2:00.42 places her third all time at ASU. Both of these top times came in dual meets, this year she needs to post impressive times in the postseason as well.
"She had a good summer and hopefully will be a lot bigger contributor to the team at the NCAA's," said Chasson.
Also back is the Sun Devils' second best all-time 200 fly artist, senior Amanda Clegg, who was slowed last season with a shoulder injury. Elwonger, with her 56.50 time in the 100 and 2:02.90 personal best in the 200, provides solid depth. Meanwhile, if Kalbko and freshman Jamie Miller can show improvement in the 200 and 100, respectively, the Sun Devil butterflyers can be among the Pac-10's best.
Adel appears poised to join collegiate swimming's elite in the individual medley events after earning a bronze medal in the 400 IM at the 1999 Pan American Games. Adel's 400 time of 4:16.07 last season placed her ninth at the NCAA Championships and second all-time at ASU. She was nearly as impressive in 200 IM competition, ranking third in Sun Devil history at 2:02.45.
"Carolyn Adel has been swimming fantastic. She's swimming lifetime bests already and should have a great year," said Chasson.
Solidifying the individual medley corps will be Mants, who sits at number seven on the all-time list in the 200 (2:03.38) and Clegg, who was an NCAA participant in both IM events before getting hurt. Kalbko and Johnson are other potential point scorers who have the ability to qualify for the NCAA's in their first year as Sun Devils.
The strength of this unit appears to be the 800 free relay team, which should again feature Adel, Baham, Elwonger and Murphy. The squad placed fifth at the Pac-10's in 1999. While these athletes will contend for spots in other events, Chasson feels ASU that relay success is essential for the team to improve its standing at the NCAA Championships.
"We need more relay-type swimmers," he said. "We need to have some more production [at the NCAA's] from the entire team."
Mark Bradshaw's diving squad will receive a tremendous boost from both old and new faces in 1999-2000. Senior Katrina Pfeuffer, an All-American two years ago, returns after redshirting last season with a wrist injury.
"Our leader on the women's side has always been Katrina," said Bradshaw, now in his third season at ASU. "She's our top diver from an all-around standpoint."
Pfeuffer's leadership will be essential as the Devils welcome three incoming divers, including freshman Cassie Kellerman who has experience at the Senior National level. Bradshaw also has the luxury of returning two experienced upperclassmen, junior Trish Malatesta and senior Mandy Contreras. Malatesta garnered an honorable mention All-America selection after placing 13th in the platform competition at the NCAA's (319.10), while Contreras has been a consistent scorer in dual meets and at the Pac-10's during her three years at Arizona State.
"Our goal is to qualify at least two divers for the NCAA's," said Bradshaw. "And within that goal, ideally, would be for each to score in the platform and one springboard event."