The Utes will rely heavily on freestyler Neringa Statkeviciute in 2002-03.
Oct. 10, 2002
The University of Utah women's swimming and diving team is ready to become a conference contender this season. After a season-ending performance that resulted in Head Coach Michael Litzinger being named the 2002 Mountain West Conference Women's Coach of the Year, the Ute women are poised to continue their successful ways from last season.
"Being recognized by your peers for a job well done is always flattering. However, the award speaks more to the great team performance by our women," states Litzinger. The women finished fourth in the MWC, and after improving their dual meet record and breaking six school records last season, the Utes have their sights set on a conference championship this season.
While last year's team was filled with seniors, the 2002-03 edition of the Utes are young, with only two juniors as the upper classmen on the squad. "It's a time for our team leaders to step into the forefront, and dictate with a championship attitude," says Litzinger.
With 13 freshmen on the team, consistency from the start will be important. Big contributions will once again be needed by proven leaders for Utah, meaning co-captains Kristen Kaiser and Neringa Statkeviciute will have to lead the way if the Utes are going to be a force in the conference.
"Kristen has been the backbone of the team in the distance events for the past two years. She takes pride in her training and her competitiveness. This is her season to shine and become the leader on the deck," says Litzinger. Kaiser owns the conference record in the 400 IM, and has also set school records in the 1000 free, 400 IM and 800-free relay.
"Neringa's emergence as one of the top freestylers in the conference is such a great story. She is extremely focused and ready to build on a great summer of training," adds Litzinger. Statkeviciute owns the school record in the 200 free and 800-free relay.
Tessa Greegor is also expected to have a big year. Last season, she broke Utah's oldest standing record in the 100 breast and has emerged as one of the nation's fastest breaststrokers. Greegor's success carried her to the Phillips 66 U.S. National Championship where she placed 13th in the 100 meters.
Sophomore Loren Sweny, who notched a record-setting year last season, will also be heavily relied upon to perform well. Sweny set the Utah mark in the 200 backstroke and had a hand in the Ute's record-setting performance in the 800-freestyle relay.
This season Utah's strength's should once again lie in the middle distance and breaststroke events. Improvements in the sprint freestyles and butterfly events are expected to help bolster Utah's relays, which will be necessary for it to make a run at the MWC title.
Litzinger admits that a key to the Utes winning meets this season will be getting second and third line points. Utah will also need to step up its performance in diving this year to get the team over the hump. With a very young diving group, the performance of the freshmen will be key for the Utes to pull out big wins this season.
Litzinger has instilled a blue-collar work ethic among this year's team, and the goals for the Utes show expectations are high. "We hope to improve our dual meet record, and the team needs to think conference championship this year," Litzinger says.
As the women continue to build and shape the Utah swimming tradition, this year's schedule will be very tough. "Our schedule is ambitious. We wanted to swim against difficult teams and have a number of dual meets to prepare our team for the four days of the conference championships," says Litzinger.
The Utes should have their hands full with a very competitive schedule, which includes traditionally strong teams Ohio State and Florida State. The conference slate includes Brigham Young, the defending conference champs, as well as a tough Colorado State team. Utah will also play host to non-conference meets with Washington, Oregon State, and Pacific.
Overall, the Utes are looking forward to a very exciting year, and one that could establish them as a force to be reckoned with in the Mountain West Conference and on the national level. The 2002-03 season has all the makings of becoming a breakout year for the women's team.