(Posted October 29, 2004)

Huntingdon, PA - If, in fact success breeds success, then the 2004-05 Juniata College women's swimming team has every reason to be hopeful as it prepares to begin its dual-meet season Saturday afternoon against conference opponent Widener. Juniata is coming off one of the most impressive seasons in school history, and now faces the task of matching or exceeding those accomplishments this season.

Juniata placed third at the 2004 MAC Championships, besting its previous best finish of fourth. The Eagles earned a 9-3 dual-meet record over the course of the year under first-year Head Coach Brian McGrath, and sent a competitor to the NCAA Championships for just the second time in the program's history. But with all that success, is it reasonable to think that the Eagle swimmers could top that this season? McGrath believes the answer is yes.

"We've got a strong group of returning swimmers coming back this season," McGrath explained. "We had three seniors graduate, and have lost a few others, but have added seven freshmen. The team is much deeper this season, and doesn't really have a weak event."

Along with the talent that is in place, the swim team will have the benefit of increased familiarity with the coach. Last season, the swimmers began practice before Coach McGrath had even been hired. This season the group has worked with the coaches for more than a year and now has a better understanding of the expectations and system that is in place.

"I have a very different coaching style than what they were used to," McGrath said. "Now the ladies know what to expect and that should make them even more successful. We have veterans now who can explain to the freshmen how things are going to work."

One of the veterans who will be leading the team in and out of the pool is senior sprinter Kathy Trainor (Upper Merion/King of Prussia). Trainor cemented her reputation as one of the top sprinters in the conference when she earned first-place finishes in the 50 and 100-yard freestyle races at the Conference Championships. She also established new Juniata and Conference records in each event with her victories.

Also expected to have a strong year in the sprints is junior Amy Hanson (Lancaster Catholic/Elizabethtown) who was a top-10 finisher in sprints at the MAC meet as a sophomore. Allison Engle (Shippensburg Area/Shippensburg) should be one of Juniata's top distance performers this season, while also earning points in the butterfly events. Junior Kim Dierolf (Boyertown/Boyertown) will be a threat in the distance swims after placing sixth in the mile at the MAC Championships a season ago.

Lauren Chiapetta (St. Charles East/Elgin, Il.) is one of three Eagle seniors on the roster and will be the team's primary competitor in the breaststroke. Dana Gais (Kiski Area/Saltsburg) rounds out the Eagle senior trio and will likely produce points in the IM and backstroke events. Sophomores Collin Thompson (Altoona/Altoona) and Amy Sutherland (Norwich/Norwich, N.Y.) give Juniata great depth in the backstroke after they both enjoyed solid freshmen seasons. The two sophomores will also likely be two of Juniata's options in the individual medleys. Kathleen O'Leary (Nashua/Nashua, N.H.) is another swimmer McGrath expects to see perform in the medley events.

Along with the large group of experience returnees, McGrath brought in a talented group of freshmen in his first full season of recruiting. Among the group of seven first-year performers the coaches believe Allison Sweigart (Muhlenberg/Reading) and Jennifer Bair (Huntingdon/Huntingdon) may have the biggest impact as freshmen, though McGrath believes each of the seven has the potential to impact the program right away.

In his first season, McGrath saw nearly every swimmer on the roster enjoy a lifetime best swim in at least one event. It's that type of improvement that has the coach and his competitors believing that even though last season's success was unprecedented, the 2004-05 campaign could be even better.

"We are capable of doing better than we did last season," McGrath stated. "In a lot of ways it's just about having everyone perform to their capabilities on the same day. We've got most of our relay swimmers from last season back and with the people we've added, we'll be tough. If things go right we've got the potential to win the conference title."


Our readers respond...

Be the first to provide a response.

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.