Mavericks add depth to young swim team
Katie Wedel could’ve gone to an established program and contributed.
The freshman from Pueblo, though, chose the fourth-year Mesa State College swimming & diving program.
“It’s exciting,” Wedel said. “I like the fact that this program is relatively new. I know the future will be even better. It’s exciting to be a part of it.”
The preseason All-RMAC swimmer is one of 14 freshmen in the program.
“We’re creating our identity,” Mesa State coach Brian Pearson said. “Last year, we had 12 swimmers involved. Now, we have 24 serious swimmers. We’re trying to create a synergy and be a national contender.
“If we stay healthy, we’ll do well. (Assistant coach) Dan France is a great addition. He brings youth and different ideas.”
The Mavericks open the 2008-09 season today in the Colorado State University Early Bird Invitational at Fort Collins. It is one of eight meets this season for Mesa State, including two at home.
“It is a good way to judge ourselves against Division I talent,” Pearson said.
Wedel, a top-eight placer in the high school state championships, is one of several freshmen expected to contribute significantly for the Mavericks this season.
Others include Delta’s Karo-line Fry, sprinter Amber Haberman (La Junta), Denby Gardiner (Billings, Mont.) and Montrose twin sisters Jackie and Jordan McMillen.
Fry, a state finalist in the backstroke, also could have chosen a more established program.
“I thought about Division I, but I would have to walk on,” she said. “Here, I can be as fast as anyone else.”
The McMillen sisters will add depth for the Mavericks in the backstroke and freestyle.
The freshmen join a team with nine returning swimmers, including team record holders Sarah Hagerstrom and Megan Takakura.
“Overall, we have a lot more serious swimmers,” Pearson said. “We still have some curiosity seekers, but each year, we’re raising the bar.”
Although Mesa State is a relatively new program, it is picked to finish second in the six-team RMAC.
“With our incoming freshmen, we’re favored to be in the top two at the (RMAC) championships,”
Pearson said. “We have quality depth. Grand Canyon (Ariz.) and Incarnate Word (Texas) have two or three really fast swimmers, but we have more depth for scoring opportunities.
“I’d like to qualify our relays for nationals. Realistically, it’s hard to qualify in individual events. Division II only recognizes ‘A’ qualifying times.”
Lauren Brock, Gina Panacci and Laura Tully will swim this year after redshirting last season.
“We have a lot of freshman girls on the team,” Panacci said. “It will be hard, but they have dealt with it so nicely. I think we’ve got an awesome program. We’ve already come so far.
“I love having the incoming girls on the team. They keep us on our toes. They’ll make us stronger.”
Mesa State has two divers, freshmen Annie Rhoades (Fort Lupton) and Madelyn Schlueter (Aurora), and a diving coach (Mike Gregorich) for the first time in the program’s short history.
However, they will likely redshirt without a certified college diving board at Orchard Mesa Community Pool.
The college has a certified board and has offered to install it at Orchard Mesa, but the city has refused, Pearson said.