WVU builds confidence in U.S. Winter Nationals
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 00:12
As the halfway point of the West Virginia swimming and diving season passes, head coach Vic Riggs is left to reflect on his team’s performance in the U.S. Winter Nationals this past weekend.
The Mountaineers left their mark in Austin, Texas, during an extended invitational event in which several WVU swimmers saw top 10 performances in an event that carries Big 12 Conference Championship connotations.
"Coming off the last two meets, we have some great confidence," Riggs said. "And now we need to carry that on and fine tune what each athlete needs to get better by February. I think they are ahead of where we as a staff thought we would be at this time of year."
Senior swimmers Rachael Burnett and Mandie Nugent commanded the attention, as both swimmers placed themselves in the finals of their respective events. Burnett placed fifth in the 1650 meter freestyle event with a time of 16:09.92 while Nugent placed sixth in the women’s 200m fly event with a time of 1:58.10. In the 1650m freestyle consolation finals, senior swimmer Kata Fodor placed eighth to help bolster the Mountaineers’ top 10 efforts.
On the men’s side of the event, sophomore swimmer Daeton Davenport placed 12th in the 1650m freestyle while the young relay team of freshmen Andrew Marsh and Ross Glegg and sophomores Julien Vialette and Nathan Cobbe took a ninth place finish in the 400m freestyle relay event.
"They have come together really well and are continuing to make the steps needed to compete well," Riggs said of his young male swimmers. "I am starting to see some leadership from them that will direct this team in a positive direction as we get closer to our championship meets."
The Mountaineer swimmers were not joined by their diving cohorts, but West Virginia diving coach Michael Grapner returned to his alma mater with his team in tow as the young WVU diving squad took part in the Miami (Ohio) Invitational.
Entering the event the expectations held by Grapner for his divers were on par with the expectations held by Riggs and his swimmers. Grapner’s team in Miami, Ohio consisted of just a pair of juniors as the remainder of the men’s and women’s team consisted of sophomore and freshman divers.
Don’t tell the West Virginia divers they lack experience, however, as sophomore diver Haily VandePoel and freshman diver Christian Parker each took top 10 finishes in their respective one- and three-meter board events as Parker and several other members of the diving team took part in their first major meet in their collegiate careers. Fellow freshman Lindsay Schmidt also claimed a pair of top 10 finishes with her sixth- and seventh-place finishes in the one- and three-meter events, respectively.
While the youth of the team shined, junior Richard Pokorny went about the invitation in the "business as usual" mindset, claiming fifth in both the one and three-meter board events despite carrying one of the most technically difficult dive sets.
The swimming and diving teams will each have a layoff until Jan. 12, 2013, but Riggs has faith in his team’s ability to prepare and maintain focus during the extended break.
"They are stepping up to each challenge as presented to them very well," Riggs said. "We have the second half of the season to go, but I feel they are in a very good position to get themselves ready for Big 12s and NCAAs."