Oct. 1, 2002
Coming off their first NCAA top-ten finish in almost a decade, the women's squad looks to have another strong season with six All-Americans returning and one transferring to ASU. The losses of Sarah Baham, Riley Mants and Amanda Stanford-whose names dot the ASU record books-will be felt, but confidence is high this year in almost all events. Of the nine newcomers to the women's program, three are transfers, so there are only six new faces for the women that do not have collegiate experience.
Diving coach Mark Bradshaw insists that, like on the men's side, the women's squad is the best since he's been here, and he expects the diving team to make valuable contributions. "Last year the women finished tenth at the NCAAs without any diving points, and I see us getting at least one female diver to the NCAAs and scoring in two events."
In his thoughts on the outlook for this year's squad, head swimming coach Michael Chasson acknowledges some losses. "The women's tenth-place finish last year was the best in quite a while. We did graduate some good swimmers, losing Sarah Baham, Amanda Stanford, and Riley Mants. These were key swimmers and we hope that people can step up in their place. We've added six new women on the swimming side, two transfers and four freshman." Following is an overview of the team broken down by event.
A strong corps of sprinters is returning for the Sun Devils including the fastest 50 free swimmer in school history and two of the top three in the 100 free. Claire Hedenskog comes off a year that saw her set the school record in the 50 free (23.20) at the NCAA Championships after a seventh-place finish at the Pac-10s. Florencia Szigeti (23.77) and Florence Mauro (23.90) are both coming back after being in the top five for the squad last year.
The 100 free finds Hedenskog and Szigeti coming back tied on the all-time ASU list for the second best time in school history (50.32). Hedenskog managed a seventh-place finish in the Pac-10s while Szigeti placed 17th. Kari Wilcox (51.18) and Sarah Fischer (52.79) round out the top five performers of last year who are returning. The graduation of Sarah Baham will certainly be felt, as she's in the top-five of the ASU record book for the 50 and 100, but newcomers Erin Baldinger, Julia Chang and Laura Ullrich will help to add some depth.
Coach Chasson: "Our top two returning are Claire Hedenskog and Florencia Szigeti. Florence Mauro did some good sprinting this summer so we're hoping she's going to step up and help there. We're hoping that the two freshman coming in are going to improve and also we're going to use Miranda Shald in the freestyle and hope she can help there. We still don't have a superstar in these events and we're hoping everyone can pull together and get better, Claire has improved every year and we're hoping she will continue to do that."
Middle Distance Freestyle
Leading the charge in the 200 free is Florencia Szigeti, who placed herself fifth in the ASU record books with her 1:48.44 at the NCAAs after earning a tenth-place finish at the Pac-10s. Brooke Townsend comes in as the second-leading returner after placing 15th at the Pac-10s while swimming away from her preferred longer distances. Transfer Petra Banovic comes in looking to make an impact after having already proven herself on the collegiate level and Kari Wilcox will add depth and be a relay contributor.
In the 500, Townsend leads the pack after swimming the fastest time in ASU history (4:45.09) early last season and subsequently finishing third at the Pac-10s. The loss of Amanda Stanford leaves a gap at this distance which could be filled by Katie Titcomb, Melissa Bartlett or Jen Lees.
Coach Chasson: "Our top returner in the 200 is Florencia Szigeti and we've added Petra Banovic so hopefully we'll be pretty good there. Other individuals returning who swam these events for us last year, Kari Wilcox and Brooke Townsend, are back so we're hoping we'll have some depth there."
Brooke Townsend returns as the leader in both distance events. The 1650 is Townsend's premier event and she comes in as the second-best performer in ASU history after clocking a 16:23.07 at the Pac-10s, earning her second place. She also contributed points at the NCAAs by finishing 14th, while in the 1000 she recorded a 10:04.18 last season. Katie Titcomb (16:58.54), Melissa Bartlett (17:00.88), and Jen Lees are all returning to add support at the distance events. Freshman Kathryn Hennessy looks to make an impact at both distances and should be a regular competitor.
Coach Chasson: "Brooke Townsend is our top returning swimmer, she scored in the NCAAs. Kathryn Hennessy comes in with some pretty good times and she can improve off of those. Returning to help us here is Jen Lees, who redshirted last year, and Katie Titcomb. They will be able to help out significantly in the distance free events."
Overall, the backstroke is lacking depth and many swimmers compete here away from their strengths. The 100 is solid at the top with Miranda Shald, the best 100 backstroker in ASU history (54.47). She placed 11th at the NCAAs with her school record-setting time and placed sixth at the Pac-10s. Kari Wilcox may look to give some help here and Erin Baldinger will have the opportunity to make her mark during her freshman season.
The 200 is an event that does not have a swimmer that calls it her specialty. Wilcox was the top performer last season (2:02.37) which placed her 22nd at the Pac-10s and Shald competed several times (2:04.42).
Coach Chasson: "In the 100 back we're strong with Miranda Shald, an All-American and school record holder. Erin Baldinger will hopefully help in the 100 back as a freshman since we don't have a lot of depth in the sprint backstroke right now. The 200 backstroke, that event is wide open and we really don't have an established 200 backstroker since we have people swim the event that swim other things. We hope somebody will step up and we could use Petra Banovic there. Kari Wilcox is our top returner in the 200 and in big meets Miranda Shald can help out. We really don't have a lot of depth there."
The breastroke looks to be a strong event again this year and ?gnes Kov?cs comes in as the leader after a record-setting freshman season. Kov?cs returns ranked first in the ASU record books in the 200 breast (2:07.64) and number two in the 100 breast (1:00.47). She finished last season with a second-place finish at the NCAAs in the 200 breast and a fifth-place finish in the 100 breast. The Sun Devils will look to offset the loss of Riley Mants in both events with the returns of co-captain Josie Jedick, Karyl Johnson and transfer Courtney Caples.
Jedick comes back 10th in the Sun Devil record books in both the 100 breast (1:03.81) and the 200 breast (2:18.20). Karyl Johnson looks to solidify the ranks with personal bests of 1:05.57 in the 100 and 2:21.01 in the 200. Caples arrives with already two years of experience at the collegiate level and should compete right away.
Coach Chasson: "We still have one of the top breaststrokers in the world coming back in ?gnes Kov?cs. We lose Riley Mants who was big last year but we brought in our transfer Courtney Caples. Josie Jedick, best-time wise, is one of our top breaststrokers if she can return to her freshman form. She will be a huge help there, especially in relays at the NCAA level. Karyl Johnson will add some depth in the breaststroke events."
The Sun Devils will have to cope with the loss of Sarah Baham who holds the ASU records in both the 100 and 200. The returns of Florence Mauro (55.19) and Miranda Shald (55.53) will significantly help as they are the fifth and sixth fastest 100 fly swimmers in ASU history. The 100 will be bolstered by Sarah Fischer, coming back after a 56.40 last season during her freshman year.
The 200 fly will also be led by Mauro (2:02.89) with Katie Titcomb (2:06.83) looking to make a difference as the second-leading returner. Incoming freshman Laura Ullrich is a highly touted sprint flyer who could see herself making an impact during her inaugural season.
Coach Chasson: "In the butterfly, that's where we take our biggest hit in losing Sarah Baham. Florence Mauro is our top returning sprint flyer and Laura Ullrich comes in as one of the top sprint flyers out of high school so we have a couple of girls there who can hopefully take care of the 100 fly. Sarah Fischer comes in after improving a lot last year and Miranda Shald had a great summer in fly and will be one of our top flyers also. In 200 fly we're looking for some people to step up in there. Florence Mauro is our top returning 200 flyer and we'll use a variety of people in there, we'll have to see how the season goes. Katie Titcomb and Petra Banovic could be two of those people."
This is another event where sophomore ?gnes Kov?cs left her mark during her initial season in Tempe. She returns as the best 400 IMer in ASU history (4:10.77) and the third best in the 200 IM (2:01.27), which is the distance she will focus on this season. Sophomore Kari Wilcox also made her presence felt during her initial year and she comes back in both the 200 (2:02.52) and 400 (4:20.71) looking to be a leader for the squad. Brianna Patterson was the fourth-best performer a year ago for the Sun Devils in both distances (200 IM 2:08.15; 400 IM 4:26.74) and will be relied upon for solid performances in the 400. The incoming tandem of Petra Banovic and Courtney Caples should make their presence felt right away.
Coach Chasson: "Our top returning 200 IMer is Kari Wilcox and we're looking for her to improve and take another step up. ?gnes Kov?cs will swim the 200 IM instead of the 400 IM and hopefully she'll be a factor. She certainly had the fastest time for us although she didn't swim at the NCAAs. In the 400 IM we have Kari Wilcox and Brianna Patterson as top returning IMers. Petra Banovic can swim 200 and 400 IM and Courtney Caples can swim 200 IM so hopefully they'll add some depth there and be able to help out."
As the bulk of the relay participants return, the issues that remain are replacing Sarah Baham on four of the five relays and Amanda Stanford on the 800 free. All five relays are coming off a strong season where all placed at the NCAAs. In the free relays, the 200 placed 14th, and the 400 and 800 placed 12th. Stanford's absence in the 800 free could be offset by a newcomer and Petra Banovic is a likely candidate. Claire Hedenskog has the potential to fill this role, as her presence in that relay at times last season proved to be successful.
In the medleys, three of the four swimmers return in each distance with only the fly leg needing a replacement. Although Baham, ASU's best fly swimmer ever, is the missing individual, Florence Mauro has the ability to fill the void for the Sun Devils in both the 200 and 400 and may be looked at to fill this role. At the NCAAs last year, the 200 medley relay placed 10th, and the 400 medley earned the highest relay finish at 5th.
Coach Chasson: "In short freestyle relays, we hope that somebody we have on the team can step up. Coming in we have Petra Banovic who could help in the 400 free relay. We're hoping Miranda Shald sprints well along with the freshmen sprinters coming in and we can find someone to take Sarah Baham's place. In the the 800 free relay, we lose Mandy Stanford but we add Petra and everyone else is back so I think we'll be pretty good there in that relay if everyone continues to improve. In medley relays, which were our top relays last year, we have to replace Baham on the fly leg and hopefully Florence or Laura Ullrich can do that in both relays. Hopefully we'll be back in the top eight in that relay and continue to improve because medley should be our strength again."
Expectations are high for the women's diving team this year and coach Mark Bradshaw is looking for success from the start of the season. Natalie Burgess is the lone graduate from last year's roster while Jessica Stenson returns as the team leader who holds the school record in the One-Meter/Six-Dive optionals (287.10) that she set last year. The Sun Devils scored a big addition to the program with the arrival of Trisha Tumlinson, an All-American from the University of Kentucky. Coach Bradshaw says that the 2001 Senior National Champion on platform has the credentials to make an immediate impact.
Coach Bradshaw: "Our zone on the women's side is extremely difficult to qualify for nationals and it's always a dogfight for the last couple spots. There are probably ten women fighting for seven spots and I see Trisha fighting for one of those spots. She was an All-American last year at Kentucky and has the potential to be All-American in at least one springboard event and platform. Jessica Stenson is our leader and she has just improved so much every year it's been amazing to watch. I expect she's going to step it up again this year. Our goal is to outscore the opponent diving-wise in the duals and conference meet. This is a special emphasis this year and it's a pretty big goal, but I think we can do it."