Swimming in the same direction
Mavericks adapt to Allen's system, eye RMAC titles
Ron Allen made some significant changes with the Colorado Mesa men’s and women’s swim teams last year.
Some took to it, but many didn’t.
This year, the CMU swimming & diving coach has several returning swimmers and divers and some talented freshmen believing in his philosophy.
“A lot of them didn’t buy into the training program last year,” Allen said. “There is a larger majority that understands and buys into it (this year). That’s huge.”
The men and women are confident they can win the RMAC title this year.
“An RMAC championship is in the back of everybody’s minds,” senior captain Rob Eisendrath said. “I know everyone’s goal this year is winning it. We’re not only going to surprise each other, but everybody else.”
The men are picked second with the Colorado School of Mines in the preseason poll. The women are expected to finish second as well.
Wherever they finish, there will be a new RMAC champion this year regardless.
RMAC men’s and women’s champion Grand Canyon and Incarnate Word moved up to NCAA Division I. Another affiliate member, Texas-Permian Basin, left the RMAC unexpectedly, but California Baptist University joined the RMAC as an affiliate member. There are four men’s teams and five women’s teams this year.
California Baptist is the favorite to win the RMAC men’s and women’s titles.
Lindenwood (Mo.) University is joining next season in both. CSU-Pueblo is adding women’s swimming and diving next season.
Colorado Mesa will host the RMAC championship again this season (Feb. 19-22). The format, though, might change.
The RMAC is considering going to a full, four-day format for the RMAC Championships and individuals could be competing in as many as four individual events. The coaches have voted for it, but the final decision is waiting approval from the conference athletic directors.
The Colorado Mesa men’s team has the depth to challenge for the RMAC title, Allen said.
“Making choices for conference is not going to be easy,” Allen said. “Their primary goal as a team, and the women’s as well, is to win conference. I think it will be us and Cal Baptist duking it out for that.”
The Mavericks have 33 men on the team this season, but lost national qualifier Mehdi El Hazzaz. The sophomore from Morocco received a full-ride scholarship and transferred to former RMAC associate member Incarnate Word, which moved up to Division I this year.
Rob Eisendrath (backstroke, IM), Josh Scheuermann (freestyle), Brett Lowe (breaststroke, IM) and Tyler Kaslik (distance) will carry most of the load. All four are hoping to qualify for nationals for the first time this season.
“Last year was the closest I was individually, but it’s something I’ve been shooting for since my freshman year,” Eisendrath said. “It takes time. I think our new training program and the atmosphere it created, I think we’re setting ourselves up to do well, not just individually, but as a team.”
Kaslik holds the CMU record in the 500 and 1,000 freestyle. Eisendrath has the 100 and 200 backstroke school records. Lowe holds the 100 and 200 breaststroke and the 200 individual medley records.
The four seniors set the 200 medley relay record last year.
Kent Stavrakas returns after sitting out last year with a torn shoulder labrum.
Stavrakas set the 50 and 100 freestyle school records, only to see El Hazzaz break them last year.
“He wants those back,” Allen said.
Freshmen Jerrin Brinton (distance), Kyle Johnston (butterfly, freestyle) and Ryan Gifford (distance, breaststroke) could make a big impact.
The men broke the school record in every event except two. El Hazzaz set four of them.
The women’s team doesn’t have the top-line swimmers like the men, but they could get enough points from their second- and third-tier swimmers to compete for an RMAC title.
They are led by senior Briana Purkapile, who qualified for nationals last year in the butterfly and individual medley. She owns the school record in the 100 and 200 butterfly and the 200 and 400 IM.
“I have high expectations for this year,” Purkapile said. “Not doing so well makes me want to go back and (place) higher this year.”
Allen is confident she’ll get that chance.
“If she can stay healthy, she’ll be on track (to return to nationals),” Allen said. “She is very focused with a knowledge of the training program now. I think she’ll go far.”
Purkapile is one of 22 women on the team this year. The women set 11 school records last season.
Seniors Annie Jones (freestyle, IM), Danielle Pena (distance) and Katherine Thompson (breaststroke) will make a big impact this season, Allen said.
Thompson has the school record in the 100 and 200 breaststroke.
Freshmen Miranda Reetz (breaststroke), Briana Bearden (backstroke, freestyle), Eryn Leonard (freestyle, butterfly) and Abi Young (freestyle) could also score valuable points.
Reetz already has times close to national cuts coming into the season, Allen said.
“It will be our second-tier kids,” said Allen of the key for the women winning the RMAC.
The Mavericks lost seniors Kelly Hogan and Danielle Shabelski. Hogan set the school record in five of the six freestyle swims.
All-American diver Brock Martin returns for his final season and national qualifier Ryan Popp is back.
National qualifying divers Amanda Jennings and Savannah Craft return for the women.
“Brock is geared up for finishing his senior year,” Allen said. “He is very motivated. I think all the divers want to take it to the next level.
“He does need to add one or two more dives with a higher DD (degree of difficulty). How we’re addressing that is slight coaching changes with more prepatory work at the beginning of the year.”
The divers are doing some training on a trampoline this season.
“For learning some of the harder dives, that is the way to learn,” Allen said. “When you’re going off a 3-meter for the first time and you’re trying to a brand-new dive for the first time, it’s scary as heck going off that high. We’re practicing several times with harnesses and such. We’re creating one of the top diving programs in the country, that’s my goal.”
Martin, Popp, Jennings and Craft are the only divers in the program this year.
“Amanda wants to be in the top eight,” Allen said. “The others (Popp and Craft) want to be in scoring position.
“They need to add harder dives and clean up their entries, too. They’re already focusing on that.”