Utah looks to make big strides in the MWC Championship race this season.
Oct. 23, 2007
The University of Utah men's swimming and diving team has its sights set on raising the bar in 2007-08. Utah hopes to become a power in the Mountain West Conference and a factor at the NCAA Championships. Under first year head coach Greg Winslow, the Utes are poised to climb the ranks and put the focus on redefining Utah swimming.
"We're really focusing on forming an identity for our team," comments Winslow. "We want to increase the toughness of our squad and gain confidence in what we can do. It's about taking pride in Utah swimming and who we are."
The Utes enter the season off a 5-6 mark a year ago and fourth-place finish at the MWC Championships. The new coach will put an added emphasis on conditioning in order to prepare the team to meet its goals.
"We want to be in the best shape we've ever been in," adds Winslow. "It's time to eliminate all excuses and prepare to handle the pressure of competing with the best in the country."
For Utah to make a run at the title it will be important for the team leaders to step up and lift the team. The Utes expect big things from its young core as well as steady improvement from the newcomers. The Utes return a strong core in the sprint free, back, fly and IM events. Capitalizing on those strengths will be important in making the climb up the conference standings.
Junior Marco Ferraro is coming off a summer in which he set the Swiss record in the 800 free relay and will attempt to qualify for the Swiss Olympic Trials in the summer of 2008. His strength is the 200 free, but he will also be looked to as a leader on the squad.
"Marco is one of the hardest workers in the pool," says Winslow. "He's the backbone of this team and sets an example of integrity for everyone."
Newcomer Garret Beaman should provide an immediate boost to the relays, sprint free and back events. He comes to Utah from Kingwood, Texas, where he was an All-American in high school.
The Utes will rely on Michel DeCarolis to anchor the breast and IM events. DeCarolis will join Ferraro to compete for the Swiss Olympic team in the summer.
The Utes will also expect big things from incoming freshmen Vlas Lezin and Thomas Ekstrom. Lezin comes to the Utes from Russia and will compete in the butterfly and back events and has the talent to be a surprise in the conference. Ekstrom hails from Ogden, Utah and earned high school All-American honors in the 200 free and 400 free relay.
Three upstart Utes that could play crucial roles in the team's run this season include; Adam Oliver, Mason Childs and Nick Philpot. Oliver was named MWC Swimmer of the Week last October. He also placed seventh in the 1650 free at the MWC Championships. Childs enters his freshman season with talent to compete immediately in the free events. Philpot will begin his senior season looking to improve on a 16th place finish in the 400 IM at the conference championships. He will also compete in the breast events as well. These three Utes have the ability to contribute and help lift the team to new heights as the season progresses.
Utah will find out very early what it will be like to face the nation's top schools as it opens the dual meet season at Winslow's former school Arizona State, on November 9. The following day the team will host defending conference champion UNLV, in Salt Lake City.
"We will be tested early," states Winslow. "Our young guys will have to step up and if they do, we could put a scare into the MWC competition."
In January, the Utes will host TCU on the 12th, before hitting the road for Wyoming and Air Force on the 25th and 26th, respectively. The dual meet season will conclude with a visit to in-state rival, BYU on Feb. 1. The MWC Championships will take place February 27-March 1, in Oklahoma City.
The 2007-08 edition of Utah is a team that might not be on the radar as a title contender but if it can put together all the pieces the Utes could surprise many people and be a team to watch come conference championship time.