After 13 Big Ten Championships, 110 All-Americans, two NCAA Coach of the Year awards, and one NCAA team silver medal in 1995, one might think Michigan women”s swimming coach Jim Richardson feels comfortable knowing that he has history on his side when he goes into a season but he knows better.
“It”s a brand new year and the team that won last year is not the team who will compete this year” said Richardson, whose squad competed for the first time in the 2001-02 season with an intrasquad meet on Friday.
Although the meet was not scored, it provided the first chance for Richardson to see how the team would swim without three key contributors departed seniors Jennifer Crisman and Melissa Sugar and 2000 Olympic gold medallist Samantha Arsenault.
Arsenault, a sophomore, has been out with a shoulder injury since last year”s NCAA Championships and it is unknown when she will be able to get back into the pool at 100 percent.
The Wolverines who did compete at the intrasquad did not disappoint. Senior captain Lindsay Carlberg, a representative at the World University Games, led her team to 10 first-place finishes over the team led by fellow senior captain Andrea Kurrle.
Lindsay “had a great summer,” said Richardson. “It gave her a lot of confidence. She likes to hit the wall first and she”s tougher right now than ever before.”
Also making a good impression at the intrasquad were the new Wolverines. Freshman Amy McCullough scored a win for Kurrle”s team in 1000-yard freestyle and Kentucky transfer Kelli Stein claimed firsts in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes and was a part of the winning 200 medley relay.
“Kelli has tools, is very coachable and has a good mindset. She could be among the best breaststrokers in school history, which is some very elite company,” Richardson said.
All-American Emily Fenn, who had a lengthy fight with scoliosis this summer, has returned to the pool with an upbeat attitude, even though it may be until December before she can get back to swimming well on a daily basis.
With Fenn and Arsenault who is resting her shoulder in hopes she will be able to train for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens both not at their normal level, the Wolverines will be relying on the rest of the team, especially the younger swimmers, to step up.
“I was happy with what we had from our freshmen,” assistant coach Stefanie Kerska said. “It takes time for them to adjust to our program. We have (the intrasquad) to start thinking about competition, but we will need all three weeks of practice to be ready for the meets in Florida.”
Michigan begins its season in Gainesville, Fla. on Oct. 19-20 and will remain on the road until Christmas break before going to Hawaii for a two-week training trip. The Wolverines open at home on Jan. 18 against Penn State, last year”s Big Ten runner-up.
“This team looks about average right now when compared with other Michigan teams,” said Richardson. “Their commitment and attitude are above average, so I am hoping the physical part catches up. It is important to swim confidently and not feel the pressure, which I don”t think we have so far. That”s definitely the challenge in front of us.
“We need to take the season one day at a time. If we can string together enough of those days in a row, we give ourselves a very good chance to have success.”