RENO, Nev. - After ending their season with a six-place finish at the Western Athletic Conference Championships Feb. 23-26, the University of Nevada swimming and diving team (3-7) prepares to say goodbye to its seniors and begin training for the 2011-12 season.
The Wolf Pack struggled this season, facing tough competition nearly every week. Nevada opened the season early with a 170-125 loss to No. 4 Cal. This was followed by the team's annual Silver vs. Blue Intersquad meet, where the blue team defeated the silver squad 134-106. Nevada claimed fourth at the George Haines Invitational where they faced athletes from No. 1 Stanford, No. 4 Cal and San Jose State. Another loss came in a 99-68 defeat by San Jose State. Nevada suffered losses to UC Davis (154-99) and Pacific (156-106) when the teams faced in a double-dual. The Wolf Pack swimmers and divers recorded their first win of the season in a 157-143 victory over Fresno State. The win was followed by a 166-134 loss to Nebraska and a 126-117 loss to Idaho to close out the fall season.
The team opened the spring season with a 5-0 win over the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez during a training trip in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Nevada's return to the states saw the Wolf Pack lose to UC Davis 123-120 and defeat Cal State University East Bay 203-28 in a double-dual. Nevada ended its regular season with a 124-80 loss at Seattle. The Wolf Pack swimmers and divers concluded the 2010-11 season by posting 326 points to snag the sixth-place team spot at the WAC Championship.
"We faced quite a few adversities this season, but because of our fantastic leadership this year, we grew stronger from it all," head swim coach Mike Richmond said. "The ladies fought so hard the entire season, and I couldn't be more proud of them.
"Every year and with each graduating class the dynamics of the team change, so we have to find a new identity through the girls that are returning," Richmond continued. "We also need to be a team with more power in the water, so the weight room and dry land conditioning will be a major focus in the offseason."
The 2010-11 season did, however, allow many of the Wolf Pack swimmers and divers to showcase their individual talents. Nevada's sophomore class, led by Mengjiao Mi, Chavisa Thaveesupsoonthorn and Gabby Guieb, had an especially impressive 2010-11 season.
Mi recorded strong performances in each of Nevada's meets this season, finishing the season with a team-high 17 event wins. On two occasions, Mi recorded three individual first-place finishes in a single meet. The 2009 WAC Freshman of the Year first accomplished the feat against No. 4 Cal when she claimed first in the 100-yard (52.14), 200-yard (1:51.65) and 500-yard (5:07.41) freestyle events. Mi snagged three wins again against Nebraska when she took first in the 100-yard (51.82), 200-yard (1:51.98) and 500-yard (5:02.67) freestyle events. In just two seasons, the Beijing, China native has already worked her way into the Nevada record books as one of the Wolf Pack's most prolific freestyle swimmers.
"Jojo is a special athlete, but an even more special person," Richmond said. "She continues to learn to be a great leader and is such a positive influence both in the pool and out. She improved quite a bit from last year to this year, and I think we'll see even more out of her in the future."
Thaveesupsoonthorn was one of Nevada's leading backstroke and individual medley swimmers this season. The sophomore stepped up big in the Pack's win over Fresno State, recording two wins (200-yard backstroke, 2:06.22; 400-yard IM, 4:27.43) and a second-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke (1:00.33). Thaveesupsoonthorn posted season-best times in the 400-yard IM (4:26.36) and 200-yard backstroke (2:02.78) at the WAC Championships to finish seventh and 10th in the events, respectively.
"Chavisa is a good person outside of the pool and a fierce competitor in the pool," Richmond said. "She is such a sweet girl until she hits that water, then she's a warrior who hates the possibility of losing. Plus, Chavisa brings so much experience to the program, having been on two Olympic teams before coming to Nevada."
Guieb emerged as one of the Wolf Pack's most versatile swimmers. The Seattle, Wash. native competed in the individual medley, backstroke and butterfly this season, managing a top-three finish in each of Nevada's dual meets. Guieb recorded season-best times in the 200-yard butterfly (2:00.42) and 400-yard IM (4:24.02) at the WAC Championships to finish second and ninth in the events, respectively. Her regular-season bests came against Nebraska when she took first in the 200-yard butterfly (2:06.20), second in the 200-yard IM (2:09.83) and fourth in the 100-yard butterfly (59.08).
"Gabby had a solid freshman year and really built upon that this year," Richmond said. "She leads through her incredible work ethic and truly sets a standard for our entire team. Gabby has big goals, and she's well on her way to reaching them; next season will be a great one for her."
Freshman Andrea Kostecki impressed Nevada fans and coaches when she immediately began winning after joining the team at the start of the spring semester. Kostecki finished first in her first race for the Wolf Pack, the 200-yard freestyle (1:55.51), in a double-dual against UC Davis and Cal State University East Bay. The Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada native also took third in the 100-yard freestyle (53.91) at that meet. In just her second collegiate meet, Kostecki claimed first in the 100-yard (53.63) and 200-yard (1:53.78) freestyle events after swimming the anchor leg of Nevada's first-place 200-yard medley relay team. At the WAC Championships, Kostecki finished ninth in the 200-yard freestyle (1:49.23).
"Andrea has made a huge impact on our team in such a short period of time," Richmond said. "She's just beginning to figure out what she is capable of, and it will be fun to coach her in this next phase of her career."
Nevada will say farewell to three seniors this season: Marichi Gandionco, Kimberly Medina and Heidi Ong. Gandionco posted solid times in the butterfly and freestyle events all season and proved to be an important part of Nevada's relay teams' successes. The Quezon City, Philippines native recorded one of her best meets of the season against Seattle University, claiming first in the 200-yard butterfly (2:08.36), third in the 200-yard freestyle (1:59.35) and helping the 200-yard medley relay team to a first place finish (1:51.91). Medina swam the butterfly and the individual medley for the Wolf Pack. The senior from Las Vegas, Nev. recorded her top finishes of the season in a double-dual against UC Davis and Pacific, finishing fourth in the 200-yard (2:13.23) and fifth in the 100-yard (1:02.03) butterfly events. Due to a medical condition, Ong was forced to cheer for the Pack poolside this season.
"The leadership our seniors provided will be greatly missed," Richmond said. "It's not only what they did in leading us this season, but throughout their years with us. It's hard to replace people like that; they're invaluable.
"They will each be successful in their future endeavors, and Wolf Pack swimming and diving is a far better organization because of them," Richmond continued. "The legacy these ladies left will carry over for generations to come."
Nevada's divers turned in strong scores at each meet, taking first on either the 1-meter or 3-meter at each of the Wolf Pack's dual meets, and sweeping both boards against No. 4 Cal, Fresno State, Nebraska, UC Davis and Cal State University East Bay. The divers showcased their talents at the Wildcat Diving Invitational in Tucson, Ariz., where they went up against competition from No. 1 Stanford, No. 6 Southern California, No. 7 Arizona, No. 16 Wisconsin and No. 23 San Diego State.
Freshman Grace Huang made an immediate impact for Nevada, recording a top-three finish in each of the season's meets. The three-time WAC Diver of the Week shined at the Wildcat Diving Invitational, where she claimed third on the 1-meter (298.65), ninth on the 3-meter (282.95) and 11th on the platform (193.80). Huang stepped up big again at the WAC Championships, finishing fifth on the 1-meter (264.05) and second on the 3-meter (309.60) and platform (219.60).
"Grace placed in all of her dual meets this season, and really impressed the coaching staff," diving coach Jian Li You said. "She learned how to dive on the 3-meter and the platform this season while training with the team.
"I'm excited for Grace to step up and become a team leader next year," You continued. "She works so hard and never complains. She's also a very good student. These are the things you look for from a leader."
Aniesa Debaji managed a top-three finish in each meet she competed in this season. The junior from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada had one of her best performances against Nebraska, when she finished first on the 1-meter with a season-high score of 284.03 and second on the 3-meter with an impressive 293.40. Debaji also posted strong scores at the Wildcat Diving Invitational, turning in the Wolf Pack's second highest score on the 3-meter (12th, 280.25) and the 1-meter (12th, 263.30).
"Aniesa performed really well all year," You said. "She was unable to compete in our final meets of the season due to injury, but I expect big things from her next year."
Freshman Stephanie Hansen served as an anchor for Nevada, finishing in the top-three on at least one board in each of the Wolf Pack's meets this season. Hansen's highest 1-meter score came in her first collegiate meet, when she posted a score of 265.80 against No. 4 Cal to take second in the event. The Surrey, British Columbia, Canada native recorded her highest 3-meter score of the season against Nebraska, 279.75, to finish third in the event. Hansen also proved to be a strong platform diver for the Pack, taking ninth in the event at the Wildcat Diving Invitational (203.35) and fourth at the WAC Championship (209.10).
"Stephanie had a great freshman season," You said. "She usually finished second or third in dual meets, which was really valuable for us. I'm expecting really good things from Stephanie next season."
Heather Ramirez led the Nevada divers as the only senior on the squad. Ramirez proved to be one of the team's top platform divers, taking seventh (203.65) in the event at the Wildcat Diving Invitational and third (213.15) at the WAC Championship. The senior recorded season-high scores on both boards in a double-dual against UC Davis and Cal State University East Bay, posting a score of 263.55 to claim second on the 1-meter and 274.73 on the 3-meter to finish third.
"Heather is the best team captain I've ever had," You said. "She has worked very, very hard for four years without complaint. Her work ethic and her positive attitude are a great example for all of the freshman on the team this year."
Fans can expect more good things from the Wolf Pack divers in the 2011-12 season, as the team stands to lose just one athlete.
"We'll have the same core group of girls next season, and I'm excited for that," You said. "We had a great season, and they're already working to improve for next year."
Richmond promises good things from the Wolf Pack swimmers in the upcoming season, too.
"Fans can expect a great team with a lot of talent and leadership next year," Richmond said. "We've had such a young team the past two years that it will be exciting to watch the ladies take the lessons they've learned the past couple years and apply them in a way that allows the team to reach great heights.
"With the foundations we have in place and the great talent we have coming next season, I couldn't be more excited," Richmond continued. "We're putting together an extremely tough 2012 schedule, which will sharpen us all season. By the time we get to next year's championships, we'll be a team that's ready to win another title."