Swim teams ready to compete after tumultuous off-season

by Jennifer Yu | 11/3/06 6:00am

The Dartmouth men's and women's swimming and diving teams, newly united under head coach Jim Wilson, will open the 2006-07 campaign this weekend with meets against Boston College, Columbia and Maine.

The Dartmouth women's team (DWSD), which finished seventh in the Ivy League last season, enters the season after enduring a few tumultuous months of uncertainly after last year's coach, Joann Brislin, resigned from her position to become the Big Green's assistant director for physical education.

The team took another hit when, barely two months after the College announced the hiring of Jerry Foley, the former Bucknell University head coach cited family reasons as his reason for retracting his commitment to Dartmouth.

Foley's decision came less than a month before the swimming season began and the College decided to name Wilson as the head coach for both the men's and women's programs.

"I think we have already overcome our biggest challenge after Jerry Foley resigned, which was the feeling of limbo of what is going to happen to DWSD," Elizabeth Mancuso '08 said. "We came through with flying colors though. The team really pulled together to get through the period of uncertainty."

The women on the team believed that they have now rebounded fully from those months of insecurity and doubt.

"As a team, we are looking forward to our season and putting all of the coaching drama behind us," said Lizzie Rippe '07, co-captain of the women's team. "Stressing out over why [Foley] is not here will not make anyone swim faster."

Wilson will remain the head coach for both programs until the end of the year, but the women's swimming and diving team understands that the athletic department will reevaluate its decision at the end of the season.

"So far, Jim has done a great job as the women's coach," Rippe said. "Since he has been with the men's team for a number of years, he already knew the sophomore, junior and senior women and he is also obviously familiar with Dartmouth, which has made the transition to a new coach smoother."

The teams have started practicing together, a change perceived by many members to be a positive experience for both teams.

"Thus far, the experience has been very positive," women's co-captain Melissa Kern '07 said. "With more swimmers in the pool, the intensity of practice has gone up as well as the morale of the team. I think the team as a whole has been swimming well in practice, which gives us great confidence going into our first meets."

Despite the drama that underscored the team's pre-season, members of the team have remained optimistic about the upcoming season, especially with the addition of seven first-year swimmers and divers.

"On the women's side, we have seven freshmen who bring speed and depth to the team this year. Our team is definitely just as strong or stronger than it was last year and I am excited to see what we can do," Kern said.

Mancuso agreed and added, "We finished eighth my freshman year and seventh last year, so the trend looks like we are going to be moving up. The team is extremely excited about this season. We have a great and talented freshman class, and the returning classes look stronger than ever."

The seventh place finish from last year gives the women in green an opportunity to grow and improve their record significantly.

"We are still considered the little fish in a big pond, and as a team, we have to make our presence known within the league," Rippe said. "The women have a lot of potential for success this season, and I think that we might surprise some other schools with our depth."

The men's swimming and diving team, perennially awarded Academic All-America status, ended last season with a disappointing last place finish at the EISL. However, the commencement of a new season brings new expectations and challenges for the team.

"This year, with the addition of some talented freshmen and a very strong sophomore class, we are hoping to build on what we started last year," diver Andrew Berry '08 said.

However, the team will be tested this season after losing three players this early in the season.

"This year we are suffering from injuries early. Two guys are injured right now and we lost one guy indefinitely last winter," Berry said.

Early injuries to Porter Diehl '09 and Cary Stathopoulos '10 will definitely influence the team's performance in addition to the loss of Justin Slick '09, who is still recovering from an injury incurred last season.

Despite the injured members, the men's team, led by senior co-captains Brent Butler '07 and Shane Foster '07, still boasts a consistently strong roster of swimmers and divers that includes Kevin Ellis '09, whose 500-yard freestyle performance at the EISL was the second fastest in Dartmouth history. Ellis also broke a 25-year-old Dartmouth record in the 1,000-yard freestyle event last season.

On the diving end, Berry, who finished fourth in the one-meter board at the EISL last season, will continue to contribute significantly to the team.

When asked about how joint-practices with the women's team affected the men's team, Berry said, "Overall, there is renewed excitement with the combination of the men's and women's teams under coach Wilson. The two new assistants are also very sharp and energy among the swimmers is high on the pool deck."

Both Dartmouth teams travel to Boston College today for their first meet of the season. The swimmers and divers then return home for Saturday and Sunday's matches against Columbia and Maine, respectively.