The Utah men's team is set for another season after finishing second in the MWC last year.
Oct. 21, 2004
The University of Utah men's swimming and diving team is set for another season, and ready to compete for the Mountain West Conference crown. That is quite a statement considering how far the Utes have come under Head Coach Michael Litzinger, who enters his fifth year at the helm of Utah swimming.
The Utes have made significant strides under Litzinger's watch since finishing 0-6 overall in 2001. The 2004 season saw Utah come off its best season in recent years, finishing 7-1 overall with a 3-1 conference mark to earn them a second-place finish in the regular season, and a fourth-place finish at the MWC Championship.
"We're poised to compete for the conference championship, and make a splash on the national level," says Litzinger. "Our goals have changed from fielding a competitive team to competing for the conference championship, and be nationally ranked on a consistent level."
The Utes return a solid core of swimmers and divers to help the Utes improve on last year's success. Utah returns 17 letterwinners, and adds 10 newcomers to bolster its ranks.
Junior Jonathan Larsen will lead the Utes' freestyle sprinters. Larsen is the 100 free MWC champion, and will look to defend that title. "Jonathan asserted himself as one of the top sprinters in our league," comments Litzinger. "Now, it's time for him to take it to the NCAA level."
Sophomores David Maasburg and Matthew Bailey, along with senior Jorge Amorim will round out a solid core of sprinters for Utah. "Our sprinters are coming of age, and we'll look to them as a unit to help us reach our goals."
Going the distance for Utah this year in the freestyle will be junior Eric Jorgensen and senior Matan Ratz. Both conference finalists in their respective events, Jorgensen in the 500 and 1650 freestyle events and Ratz in the 200 free, will lead a talented group of freshman consisting of Adam Preston, Nick Philpot, James Foltz, Ben Simms and Chris Lyle.
"Eric had a breakout year last season, and we'll depend on him to take the reigns of this young distance group," notes Litzinger. "Adam was a 2003 silver medallist at the World University Games and he will make an immediate impact for us, while high school All-American Nick Philpot will contribute to our squad immensely."
NCAA qualifier and 200 fly MWC champion Cody Rempfer leads a deep group of swimmers for the Utes in the butterfly. "Cody has made tremendous improvement since coming to Utah," says Litzinger. "He is ready to finish as one of the premier swimmers in the Mountain West."
Sophomore Sebastian Bedaw and newcomer Andrew Brown will provide great depth and support to an already solid core of butterfly swimmers.
California native Andrew Cole will lead a backstroke contingent of junior Seth Halsey and Kevin Brown of Denver, Colo. Cole holds the third fastest time in the 200 back at Utah and fourth in the 100 back and was a MWC finalist in both events last year.
Utah record holder, and NCAA qualifier Evan Castro will be the mainstay in the 100 and 200 breastroke events this year. "Evan has been one of our most valued performers over the past four seasons," comments Litzinger. "He has broken the 100 breaststroke record twice and has qualified for the NCAA Championships. He has much to be proud of, but most of all Evan has been key in the rebuilding of the Utah Men's program."
Rempfer will continue to lead a strong medley team with sophomores Galen and Cole providing support for the strong senior.
"I believe our IM group has the potential to be the strongest in the league," says Litzinger, "when a team has a solid IM team, that team has depth, and that translates into success at the conference meet."
MWC Men's Diver of the Year Sterling Richards will lead Utah diving once again. The Woods Cross native won the three-meter diving title at the MWC Championship and earned All-MWC honors. Sophomore Damien Brown returns to Utah after joining the Utes mid-season. Brown hails from Morrinsville, New Zealand where he holds the national diving titles for the one and three meter diving events.
"We will see bigger and better things this year for the men's team. Sterling will be looked to lead this team, and our sights for him are the NCAAs," says diving coach Rachael Degener. "The rest of the guys are super competitive and will all be fighting for the top spots at conference."
Utah men's swimming is poised for another season, and this time, the Utes are looking for a conference title.