Oct. 24, 2002
With a year of experience under its belt and another solid recruiting class in the fold, the Georgia Tech women’s swimming and diving team is poised to make a move in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season. Last year, the team’s first, must be viewed as a success, as the Jackets won five dual meets and sent Cara DeVinny to the NCAA Championships in three events.
However, head coach Seth Baron views last season’s success as a springboard to greater things in 2002-03.
“With the women’s team the expectations are very high,” Baron said. “We surpassed a lot of people’s expectations in our inaugural season. With a year behind them, they now have a vision and can see what they are capable of doing, and I really believe that they are going to be extremely focused this season. I know for a fact that one of their goals is to move up at least two spots at the conference championships.”
Tech placed eighth a year ago.
In addition to moving up on the conference level, Baron sees Tech as having a solid chance of improving nationally as well. That means sending more women to the NCAA Championships.
DeVinny, who swam the 200 fly, 200 IM and 400 IM last season, is believed to be the first-ever Division I women’s swimmer to qualify for the NCAAs in her team’s inaugural season.
“No doubt, we want to get Cara back to the NCAA Championships,” Baron said. “Getting her back and getting her to score is a very legitimate goal. In addition, we’d like to get some other individuals to NCAAs like Lisa Hancock and Anna Saum, who had very good freshmen years. I also believe that we have some incoming freshmen, like Meghan DeVinney, Laura Heiser, Ashley Kracke and Elizabeth Foster, that have legitimate shots, if things go well this season, of making it to the NCAA Championships. I know that is a goal for them. It’s a goal that they want to achieve and hopefully they can do it in their freshman season.”
Headlining a deep group of returnees in the sprint freestyle area is sophomore Moeko Wallis, who posted school records in both the 50 and 100 free at last year’s ACC Championships.
Adding important depth behind Wallis will be sophomores Anna Saum, Sara Gilli, Jaclyn Keys and Jennifer Christenson. Saum clocked the team’s second-fastest mark in the 50 last year, while Gilli was the second-quickest in the 100 free.
“I am pleased with the upperclassmen that we have returning,” said Baron. “I know that they are going to continue to make the strides they need to make in order to be successful in the sprint free area.”
Incoming freshman Meghan DeVinney brings impressive credentials to the team and will be an important piece in the 50 and 100 free.
Christenson set the school record at the 2002 ACC Championships but Wallis’ top performance of a year ago is not too far behind. Sophomores Lisa Hancock, Anna Saum and Michelle Maguire will add depth in the 200 free.
According to Baron, “Meghan DeVinney posts a very good time coming in as a freshman. She will not only help individually, but could potentially help on relays at the conference meet.”
Maguire, who holds the school record, leads the way in the 500 free. She is followed closely by Hancock and classmate Ann Battle.
Sophomore distance standout Michelle Maguire should again anchor the team in the 1000 and 1650 free, as she holds the Tech record at both distances. Classmate Ann Battle adds important depth and experience, as she swam the distance events at last year’s ACC Championships.
Sophomore Anna Saum, who became Tech’s first-ever All-ACC performer with a third-place finish in the 100 back, leads the backstroke events for the Jackets.
“Without a doubt, she is our No. 1 returning 100 and 200 backstroker for this upcoming season,” said Baron.
Adding solid depth in the backstroke events will be Jaclyn Keys in the 100 and Katie Duffy, Lisa Hancock and Michelle Maguire in the 200. Keys had the team’s third-fastest mark in the 100 a year ago, while Duffy had the second-fastest time in the 200.
“Freshman Ashley Kracke will add a really good punch to our backstroke events,” Baron said. “She is very strong in the 100 and 200 backstroke and will no doubt be a crucial newcomer to those events.”
Much like the Yellow Jacket men, the women lack numbers in the breaststroke area.
A big loss for Tech comes in the departure of Jenny Lentz, who is now running track and cross country full-time at Tech. She was a two-sport student-athlete for her first two years.
Returning sophomores Sara Gilli, Ashley Skala and Cara DeVinny will have to make up for the loss of Lentz, who set the school record in the 100 breast a year ago. Gilli had the team’s second-fastest mark in the 100, while DeVinny holds the school record in the 200 breast. Skala posted the second-best time in the 200.
Freshman Laura Heiser should be able to make quite a splash in this area as well.
“We add Laura Heiser, who will make an impact not only in dual meets for us, but also at the conference championship,” Baron said. “She is very strong in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke.”
According to Baron, the butterfly events will be a strong point for the Jackets this season. Sophomore Anna Saum is the team’s top returnee in the 100 fly, as she set the school record at the 2002 ACC Championships.
Baron will also count on a pair of newcomers to contribute right away in the 100 fly.
“We really add a great one-two punch in Meghan DeVinney and Elizabeth Foster,” said Baron. “Both of them come in with very solid 100 fly performances out of high school. We’re really looking forward to them making an impact.”
DeVinny and Lisa Hancock give Tech a very strong pair in the 200 fly. DeVinny competed at the 2002 NCAA Championships in the event, while Hancock posted a NCAA “B” cut and posted a U.S. National qualifying time this summer.
Without a doubt, sophomore Cara DeVinny is expected to headline the Jackets’ efforts in the individual medley this season. She posted a NCAA automatic qualifying time in the 400 IM a year ago and placed 22nd at the 2002 NCAA Championships. DeVinny also competed in the 200 IM.
Sophomore Lisa Hancock, who had the team’s second-fastest 200 IM time a year ago, again figures to be strong in the event. Sophomore Michelle Maguire returns in the 400 IM, where she stood second on the team in 2002.
Tech enjoyed some relay success during the dual meet schedule a year ago, but placed no higher than fifth in a relay at the ACC Championships. Baron expects that to change this season.
“Our relays are just going to get stronger,” Baron said. “With an additional recruiting class and pretty much everyone else returning, the relays are just going to continue to improve on an annual basis.”
“We add some really good people like Meghan DeVinney, Elizabeth Foster, Laura Heiser and Ashley Kracke, and any of them could be a member of any relay,” Baron said. “They can come in and add strength.”
“We’ll see a drastically improved performance at the conference meet.”
According to Baron, diving coach John Ames’ group will be a huge part of the Jackets’ success this season.
“I think we’re going to see some great support at dual meets and conference from our diving corps,” Baron said.
Sutton was the Jackets’ top performer a year ago, as she posted the team’s best scores on both the one and three-meter boards. She scored at the ACC Championships and Baron is eager to see her improve her place in the conference.
A long-time gymnast, Jopek did a solid job of developing her dive list last season and should improve greatly this season.
Adding depth will be incoming freshman Laurissa Prystaj, who recently placed seventh in the three-meter event at junior nationals. She also reached the semifinals in the one-meter and platform.
“I think she’ll have a huge impact on our program for dual meets and also the conference championships,” Baron said. “She showed some great promise this summer.”