Swimming and diving begins play

The UM men and women’s swimming and diving teams have a rich tradition of individual and team titles. That leaves big shoes to fill for this year’s squad, but they are determined to continue making history.

Both teams have very accomplished head coaches. James Sweeney has led the swimmers for the past four seasons and Randy Ableman has been the diving coach since 1989 and is considered one of the best teachers in the sport.

Both coaches are very confident that their respective teams will have considerable success in the upcoming season.

“We are very confident that the swimmers and divers will be able to continue to improve,” Sweeney said. “The men and women should both win us several titles this year.”

Coach Ableman was recently honored with the highest award in the sport of diving, the Phil Boggs Award, which honors career achievement and recognizes those who excelled as divers and then gave back to the sport as an instructor.

“This was a great honor to be recognized for,” Ableman said. “Adding to it is the fact that I was the first coach to win the award.”

As far as the diving team itself goes, Ableman expects them to be able to rebound from the losses of two of the best divers in the world, Michelle Davison and Imre Lengyel, who graduated last year.

“We should be ok because Michelle will be helping us out while in graduate school and we have some excellent divers left,” Ableman said. “Imre is one of the best in the world and our boys can learn from him and improve.”

This season Ableman will count on senior leadership from Katie Beth Bryant on the women’s side and Miguel Velazquez for the men.

“Katie is one of the strongest athletes in the school and worked hard in the off-season,” Ableman said. “I feel Miguel will have a big year as well.”

Coach Sweeney and his swim team hope to build on last year’s 3rd place finish in the Big East, behind Notre Dame and Rutgers. He will rely heavily on Manon van Rooijen (sixth in the NCAA last year), Christine Williams, and Bjorn Boquist to rack up individual honors.

“This year will involve a team effort,” Sweeney said. “We have Manon, Christine, and Bjorn to lead by example, but we also have some transfers and freshmen that could contribute right away and help us improve.”

Sweeney pointed to the Indiana Invite and US Open as the most important meets of the year.

“It will be a long season, and we plan on improving one meet at a time,” Sweeney said. “Those two meets will be a good indicator of where we are at as a team.”

Sweeney feels the goals for the women swimmers are to move up in the Big East and continue to rack up individual awards. As for the men, he hopes for some more Top 10 individual finishes.

“The Big East is the most improved conference in the nation,” Sweeney said. “It will be critical for both the men and women to move up in the rankings in both the conference and in the entire NCAA.”

Both coaches feel they get the most pride out of the continued improvement of both the diving and swimming teams and have big plans for the upcoming season.

Based on the track records of these two programs and coaches, there should be no doubt that the swimming and diving teams will continue their winning ways.

You can reach Eric Kalis at elk777bc@hotmail.com.