It’s time for the BYU men’s and women’s swim and dive teams to get back in the water as they head into the 2013-14 season, their third in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
“I’m really excited for this season and the team we have,” head coach John Brooks said. “For the men’s team, we should compete well in conference because there are only a few teams, so we should reach MPSF Championships and head to NCAA championships. I am also really excited for the women’s team this year and what we should accomplish.”
Two years of back-to-back success in the new conference put the Cougars in the MPSF swimming and diving championships twice. Last year, the women finished second with a score of 635.5 and the men finished third with a score of 598 at conference. Twelve Cougars made first-team all-conference and 26 made second-team all-conference. UC Davis took the women’s championship title last year and UNLV took the men’s. This year, the Cougars will attempt their third conference visit in a row in hopes of placing first.
Senior captains Jordan Fletcher and Andrew Rutherfurd are excited to lead the men’s team to victory this year. The team features nine returned missionaries on the team who, according to Fletcher, bonded their freshman year and have returned with the strongest chemistry he has ever seen in a team at BYU. Conversely, the team is short nine swimmers who leave this season to serve LDS missions. The freshmen swimmers have also impressed the men’s captains, showing their ability to hang with the upperclassmen.
Seniors Alexandra Dodds and Kimberly Doroghian will co-captain the women’s team this year. A total 23 new faces make up the women’s team, since 16 women will not be returning to swim the 2013-2014 season. Ten swimmers graduated in 2013 and six female swimmers were called to serve missions. Those sister missionaries include Paige Baisden, Natalie Bennion, Sarah Bushnell, Shelby Johnson, Meghan O’Very and Ali Tippets.
Fletcher, Stott Bushnell and Brent Murray will compete their senior years leading the men’s sprints. Both Fletcher and Murray aim to repeat all-conference honors and set more records. Last year, Fletcher and Murray helped set the new school and MPSF record in the 200 free relay.
Sophomore Alexandria Sorensen will lead the women’s sprints after performing in conference last season, grabbing three first-place finishes and being named MPSF Female Rookie of the Year. Utah transfer Valerie McMullen and BYU freshman Allison McCormick will swim their first years for the Cougars. Returning senior Angela Bennion will finish her career as part of the women’s sprint team.
Bushnell will also compete again this year for men’s distance along with sophomore teammate Dallin Johnson, who has returned from a mission. Johnson performed in conference for the Cougars his freshman year as well as all seven dual meets. Freshman Jacob Davis shows promise for the team in the distance event.
Dodds will return as an important member of women’s distance along with sophomore Camille Okelberry. Dodds was a top conference performer last season with three first-place finishes for the Cougars. McMullen will also be swimming distance for the women’s team.
The men’s backstroke swimmers are young with five returning sophomores, including standouts Jake Taylor and McKay King as well as incoming freshman Rainer Ng. In his debut season, Taylor earned all-conference honors in the MWCC, took first in four events and was a top finisher in three other events. This summer, Olympian Ng competed in the 15th FINA World Championships at Barcelona, Spain, for his home country of Singapore.
Hailey Campbell will swim for women’s backstroke in her final year, her third as a BYU Cougar after transferring from Penn State. She has had immediate success at BYU, setting school and conference records in 100 back and taking first at the MPSF Championships. She will swim alongside teammates Ciera Marsh and Lauren Shaw.
Rutherfurd returns as a senior and Olympian to head men’s breaststroke. Chad Sorensen also returns this season after serving an LDS mission. Sorensen is expected to help carry the Cougars in the backstroke event.
Returning sophomore Mallory Harris will provide strength to women’s breaststroke this season. Harris competed at MPSF Championships last year in the event and looks to be a top finalist at conference. She will swim with transfers Whitney Allen and Brittani Finlayson. Allen swam for the University of Virginia last year and Finlayson for the University of Utah.
Two new recruits from outside the United States will lead men’s butterfly this year. Lucas Aquino from Brazil and Ng will swim with returned missionary King. King competed for the Cougars in the 2010-2011 season at the MWCC meet.
Doroghian will swim her senior year to lead women’s butterfly after earning all-conference recognition two years in a row and six first-place finishes in 2012-2013. Zerlynn Tiang will compete as a sophomore after competing well for the Cougars last season. Freshman Haley Bertoldo is expected to add new talent to the team as well.
Junior Hayden Palmer will lead the men’s individual medley after a strong sophomore year, earning all-conference recognition his first year back from a mission. Olympian Rafael Alfaro will return after a redshirt year to swim his third year for the Cougars. Returned missionary and sophomore Stephen Richards will be solid for the IM team after receiving all-conference honors in 2010-2011.
Previous all-conference performers Dodds and Ampuero head women’s IM. Last season, Dodds was named to the All-MPSF First Team for her performance in the 400 IM. Allen will also swim the IM event for the Cougars and has performed well in the event previously at University of Virginia.
MPSF Conference champ Nicholas Suder, who won the 1-meter and 3-meter at the championships last year, will lead the men’s diving team. Suder also made an appearance at the NCAA Zone E Diving Championships and will look to secure a top finish in his junior year. Matthew Hopper earned all-conference recognition last year in the 3-meter and will look to make his way to national competition.
Senior and all-conference performer Raleigh Williams Taylor took second at conference last year and will be battling for first place in this year’s competition. She will lead junior teammates Haley Francois and Mackenzie Rands, who have each previously earned all-conference honors for their performances.
“Our top performers have a chance to make it to NCAA nationals this year,” head diving coach Keith Russell said. “We need people who are going to create a chance to earn points. Our expectation is to score more points than any other team at every event.”
BYU swimming and diving will kick the season off with the annual alumni meet on Friday, Sept. 20, beginning at 5 p.m., and the blue and white scrimmage on Saturday, Sept. 28, at 9 a.m. at the Richards Building pool.
The team will appear in its first outside meet of the year in Grand Junction, Colo., at the Mesa State Invite beginning on Friday, Oct. 11, at 6 p.m. MDT. The meet will continue Saturday morning, Oct. 12.
Brittany Bivings is the swim and dive sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.