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Eagle Swimmers Poised For Big Things At MAC Meet

(Posted February 6, 2006)

Junior Amy Sutherland is one of several Eagles who could produce big finishes at the 2006 MAC Swimming Championships this weekend.

Huntingdon, PA - The Juniata College women's swimming team will be looking to continue put an exclamation point on another strong season when the Eagles take on the field at the 2006 MAC Swimming Championships which will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Catholic Youth Center in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Juniata will be one of 11 teams vying the for the women's title while nine programs will be competing for the men's championship. Each day will feature prelims in the morning, followed by finals beginning in the early evening.

Juniata will send 10 competitors to the three-day championships and will be looking to better its third-place finish from each of the past two championships. The third-place finishes the past two seasons are the best in the history of the Juniata swimming program and believe they could be in position to better that effort this season.

"The meet is a little more wide open this season with five teams, including us that are all capable of winning," Juniata Head Coach Brian McGrath said. "Despite some ups and downs we've gone through this season the team realizes that having a top finish is extremely possible. At this point, they just want to go out and do it."

The Eagles enter the meet with an athlete seeded in the top-eight in virtually every event after posting a 6-6 regular-season record and a 4-4 record in conference dual meets. The team has 10 athletes qualified for the meet, and while that number is slightly smaller than many of the other top teams, Juniata's roster features versatile competitors who are threats to score points in a number of areas.

"I'm not sure there's another team that is going to score points in as many events as we will," McGrath said. "Some of our opponents are bringing 18-20 athletes, but several of them won't earn very many points. We have 10 swimmers competing, and every single one of them is capable of at least one top-eight finish, if not top-3 finishes. I don't think any other team at the meet can say that."

Among the competitors expected to produce points in a number of events is junior Amy Sutherland (Norwich/Norwich, N.Y.). She is seeded first in the 200 backstroke and will also be a threat in the 200 and 500 freestyle. Collin Thompson (Altoona/Altoona) should also be a factor in the backstrokes and is also capable

The Eagles are expected to enjoy strong finishes in nearly all of the freestyle events. Freshman Kristin Musselman (Central Columbia/Bloomsburg) and senior Amy Hanson (Lancaster Catholic/Elizabethtown) give the Eagles a formidable duo in the sprints while the trio of Kasey Brough (Carlisle/Gardners), Rachel Almy (Foxcroft Academy/Charleston, Maine) and Kim Dierolf (Boyertown/Boyertown) should all be major factors in the distance freestyle events. Many of those competitors will also help make the Eagles very dangerous in the freestyle relays, which are events that could see several school records established.

Brough and Sutherland have also emerged as the team's primary threats in the butterfly events, and could earn even more points for the Blue and Gold in that area.

The Eagles also figure to be very strong in the breaststroke events. Sophomores Jenny Bair (Huntingdon/Huntingdon) and Carlie Zoubek (Paul IV/Burke, Va.) have both been among the most improved swimmers on the roster and will be in position to produce points in the breaststroke events as well as the individual medley races.

Though Juniata's win total has been down slightly from the previous seasons in which the team earned top-three finishes at the conference meet, the overall strength and versatility of the team has McGrath excited as the meet approaches.

"If we have a very 'on' meet this team is capable of some big things," McGrath said. "There was a period where the ladies doubted themselves because of the size of our team. Now they realized that the size doesn't relate to the quality, and they want to prove it at the meet. I'm excited to see what we can do."

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.