Entering her sixth season as Washington and Lee's Head Women's Swimming Coach, Kami Gardner is excited about the level of talent both returning and new faces will be bringing to the pool during the 2012-13 campaign.
The Generals ended last season with the program's 22nd Old Dominion Athletic Conference Championship, but a number of individuals narrowly missed the opportunity to compete at the NCAA Championships. Gardner hopes to change that this season.
"Our goal in the pool is to win the ODAC Championship again, along with qualifying for NCAAs in both relay and individual events," said Gardner. "Out of the pool, we want the team to build close-knit, supportive relationships and make everyone aware that they are a contributing member."
Building these strong relationships will stem from the leadership abilities of senior captains Colleen Moore and Kelly Mae Ross.
"These two captains have an amazing work ethic and are always looking out for the best of the team," commented Gardner. "The coaching staff expects them to be successful as leaders and as individual athletes this season."
Moore and Kelly Mae Ross have proven they are ready to lead the Generals with their strong performances and dedication to the team during the previous three seasons. They each own W&L Top 10 times in the 1000 free and the 1650 free, while Moore is a two-time Second Team All-ODAC selection.
The distance duo is just two of eight experienced seniors highlighting the W&L roster this year.
Delaney Rolfe returns this season as a three-time first team all-conference honoree after being crowned ODAC Champion in the 500 free, and also as a member of the winning 400 free relay and 800 free relay. Last season, she earned her second ODAC/Farm Bureau Scholar-Athlete of the Year award for women's swimming, making her only the third student-athlete in women's swimming conference history to repeat.
Joining Rolfe on the record-setting 400 free relay during last year's campaign was classmate Izzy Brassfield, who has garnered three All-ODAC accolades, including two first team honors in her three seasons. Her past performances in the 50 free and 100 free place her on the W&L Top 10 lists and Gardner expects her to continue to perform at the highest level.
"Izzy and Delaney have continued to show their strengths, especially in the relays for us," noted Gardner. "We have called on them to step up to the challenge of tough competition and I have no doubt they will be ready for it this year."
Other returners from the Class of 2013 include Brittany Ross and Rachel Mensch. Brittany Ross is a three-time All-ODAC honoree and owns the school record in the 200 fly. Mensch has collected all-conference laurels during two seasons, claiming second team honors last year after scoring in three events at the ODAC Championship meet.
"The senior class is an incredibly versatile group," said Gardner. "With school record holders and some of the program's best athletes, they will bring a lot of ODAC experience and leadership. We are looking for them to lead the team by example in and out of the pool this season."
The large number of seniors may prove to be crucial for the team's depth, as the junior and sophomore classes contain just nine athletes altogether.
Numbers aside, the remaining upperclassmen do not lack talent. Two first team all-conference selections return for the junior class in Meredith Hardy and Lauren Kasoff. Between the two, they are part of four school records, including the 800 free relay of which both are members.
Last season, Kasoff notched second-place finishes in three events at the conference meet, while Hardy was crowned ODAC Champion while swimming a leg of four winning relays.
"The juniors bring a lot of talent and discipline to the team," said Gardner. "We will look for them to build on their success from the past and we expect them to thrive this year."
As a first-year, Hamp broke the school record in the 100 fly, and won the ODAC title in the same event. She also helped set the conference meet record and new W&L school record in the 400 medley relay. Melkun finished in the Top 4 in three events at the conference meet on her way to garnering Second Team All-ODAC laurels.
"The sophomore class has a lot of versatility, creating flexibility in our dual meet lineups," noted Gardner. " This class is talented from top to bottom is the glue that holds the lineup together."
Utilizing the collegiate-level experience in the upperclassmen will be a must, as the 2012-13 roster features 13 first-years.
"Even with the loss of great athletes like Dana Fredericks '12 and Jocelyn Cassada '12 to graduation, the team has already made the transition into the new year," commented Gardner. "We have an outstanding group of first-years that will play a major role in our success."
Coach Gardner has seen the enthusiasm and talent the rookies are displaying early in preseason practices and is confident they will be a factor in reaching the goals set for the season.
In high school, Schaffer helped lead Wheaton Warrenville to a conference championship as a freshman, while also holding a club record in the 50 free. Swabb collected All-America honors as a leg in the 200 medley relay during her sophomore year at McDowell High School in Pennsylvania, and was a six-time conference champ in individual events and a two-time all-state selection.
"The first-years have the potential to aim for NCAA cuts in the relays this year," noted Gardner. "As a sprint-oriented group, they will all be able to help the team take the program to the national level."
With a competitive schedule, the Generals will have a chance to see where they stand against proven teams. The season kicks off with a meet against Centre College, who finished 51st at the NCAA Championships in 2011-12. Mary Washington will visit Cy Twombly Pool the following weekend, and later in the season, W&L faces Carnegie Mellon, Rochester and Allegheny for a quad-meet competition. Along the way, the Generals will meet ODAC teams Randolph-Macon, Sweet Briar and Bridgewater, preparing them for the championships in February.
"I believe in the talent of our team," commented Gardner. "Our first-years are coming in strong and with the work ethic of our upperclassmen it is a recipe for a successful season."
W&L opens its season on Saturday, October 13, when it travels to Louisville, Ky., to face Centre for a 2:30 pm start time.
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