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2007 UMBC Swimming and Diving Outlook: Decade of Dominance
UMBC swimming and diving head coach Chad Cradock will look for an unprecedented fifth-straight America East title in 2007-08.
- Men's Outlook
- Women's Outlook
The UMBC men’s swimming and diving team has won a league championship for the past ten years.
After claiming their first-ever championship title at the 1998 ECAC Championship meet, the Retrievers proceeded to win another five-straight ECAC titles, but just as the Retriever dynasty was being established, UMBC made its move into the America East Conference. Without missing a turn, the Retrievers swam into history, claiming UMBC’s first-ever America East title in 2004, and quickly made a place for themselves in the America East record book, setting a new record for most points ever scored in the championship meet, posting 920 points at the 2005 contest.
The Retrievers captured their fourth-straight championship title in the 2006-2007 season, tying Delaware for most consecutive wins by a men’s team since the championship meet began in 1990, and completed their decade of dominance.
In the 2007-2008 season, the UMBC men’s swimming and diving team will vie for an unprecedented fifth-straight America East Conference title and seek to make history—again. And as the Retrievers are on their way to what will hopefully be an eleventh-straight conference title, head coach Chad Cradock will be helping his swimmers achieve another milestone in UMBC history—sending a male swimmer or diver to the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships.
“Most people associated with the [UMBC] athletic department knows that we haven’t had an NCAA qualifier,” said Cradock. “That is the ultimate goal and we have individuals on this team that have big goals like qualifying for Olympic Trials, or even making the Olympic team. We have to look individually [for goals] as well as for the team. We want to keep the team together as far as winning championships, but we need to improve on our current athletes and bring in well developed talent as well.”
With that improvement from the returning athletes and the addition of the newcomers comes stronger, faster swimmers, and ultimately more conference championships, but that end result is no cakewalk.
After besting second-place
With 16 returning swimmers on the 2007-08 squad and an enormous incoming class of 14 freshmen and one transfer, Cradock has plenty of places to see improvement. And a big part of that focus will be on the newcomers. Making up almost half of the team, the freshmen will be relied upon heavily and will need to step up in order to fill gaps in the Retrievers’ lineup.
Cradock will look for the core group of sprinters in sophomores Matt Mattingly, Rasmus Kutt, and Zach Vonder Haar and junior Milos Djukic to lead the Retrievers in the sprints, after three of the four (Kutt, Vonder Haar, Djukic) placed in the top-16 at the conference meet. Kutt, who tied for third at the conference meet, specialized in backstroke, but surprised everyone at the end of the season with his sprinting ability, while Vonder Haar also placed in the top of the conference. “We’re looking for Zach to improve and grow and I actually see it happening already,” said Cradock. “I see it in his attitude and I know he’ll be a lot stronger swimmer this year.” Cradock also expects to see major contributions from junior transfer Sven Schneider as well as senior tri-captain Scott Auchter, junior Josh Nachman, sophomores Fred Deal and John Seniz, and freshman Mitchell Donovan.
Junior tri-captain Justin Bronson will continue to lead the way for the Retrievers in the mid-distance events, but will have a high level of competition and support from his fellow teammates, most notably junior Freddie Reitz. Reitz surprised just about everyone but Cradock last year as he took down the coach’s last remaining record, in the 500 freestyle. “Freddie can put things together at the right time as long as everything’s in the right place,” Cradock said. “He has a tremendous amount of talent and that certainly was proven last year.” That record is in no way, shape, or form out of reach for Bronson, however, and Reitz will find that he will need to work just as hard to keep it as he did to break it. “Justin has learned a lot over the two years of swimming,” Cradock said. “The first year he was learning how to race against people. Last year he finished his races stronger. He’s learning how to swim his own race, be his own competitor.” Bronson and Reitz will also have help from seniors Joey Sementelli and tri-captain Adam Eiben, juniors Evan Roseberry and P.J. Sterba, freshmen Keilan Freeman, Eric Jones, Brad Reitz, Dan Weston-Dawkes, Danny Gray, and Donovan and Deal.
The Retrievers take a big hit in the distance events with the loss of Ryan Karrer, the UMBC record-holder in the 1650 free and three time conference champion in the same event. Roseberry was neck and neck with Karrer in the 1650 at last year’s conference meet, however, and pulled out numerous dual meet victories in the “iron cross” (swimming the 1000 free, 200 fly, and 500 free at the same meet) events. “We need new leadership in the distance area,” said Cradock, “and Evan will take that role but he has a challenge within the distance program as it is with Mat Carson coming in as a freshman. Along with Sementelli the distance group should pack a powerful 1-2-3 punch. They will be able to press through and be successful.”
After an extremely successful freshman campaign where he set a new conference record and was named the male Rookie of the Meet, Kutt will have his eyes set on the backstroke school records in the 2007-08 season, but he won’t be alone in that endeavor. Djukic has always been strong in the backstroke events and “has always had the potential [to break the school records],” Cradock said. The returners should not get too comfortable, however, as the addition of Freeman provides another challenger for the top backstroke spot. “The school records are within the grasp of three people,” coach Cradock said. “The three of them have to work together to push themselves and I think they can make themselves get there.” Cradock also expects to see senior Eric Skrabacz step up in the backstroke events this year as well as contributions from senior Alejandro Lopez and Schneider.
The Retrievers return school-record holder Auchter for the 2007-08 campaign and add a supporting cast in freshmen Kregg Deery and Phillip Novotny, and the continued contribution from Reitz. “I think Scott will improve, if only just because of hard work,” said Cradock. “He also has more people that can actually do breaststroke and I think there’s going to be a little bit more challenge in the training this year. I want Scott and the rest of the breaststrokers to be a little bit more solid during dual meets and in turn be a force to be reckoned with at the end of season. I want to see three guys in the top eight instead of just one.”
The butterfly events are where Cradock’s newcomers must make an impact. “If our freshmen don’t come into their own we’re going to be in trouble in this area,” he said. With Roseberry in the 200 fly during dual meets, the Retrievers have a solid top-finisher, but to supplement that finish, Cradock will need Jones and Reitz, as well as Sterba and Nachman to provide depth in the butterfly. “I think people forgot about P.J. because he did exhibition at conference last year, but quite frankly he would have finished in the top four,” Cradock said. “He really swam well at the end of the season.” Bronson will also provide a solid performance in the butterfly as he was the runner-up in the 100 fly at last year’s meet, while Mattingly and Vonder Haar also finished in the top eight. Lopez will also contribute to the butterfly events.
Cradock has just about as much depth as he can handle in the IM events, but with an IM swimmer comes versatility, something that Cradock will be sure to utilize in the upcoming season. The Retrievers return top-finishers in the IM events in Roseberry, Mattingly, Eiben, Auchter, Sementelli, and Skrabacz and also add a host of talent with Carson, Deery, Novotny, Weston-Dawkes and Freeman. “Last year this area saw a lot of improvement in Eiben, Mattingly, and Sementelli and I expect it to conntiune,” said Cradock. With so many swimmers capable of swimming the event, however, he may look to shuffle some of them around. “You have to be careful about loading up an individual event,” he said. “We do have versatile people and we might have to put them in different areas to spread the wealth throughout the conference.”
The Retrievers return only one diver from last season in sophomore Matt Hamel, who saw competition in two meets during the 2006-07 season and add an entirely new coaching staff as well as five freshmen in Chris Cheng, Daniel Grippi, Greg Guseman, Seth McNew, and Mike Morabito. “Diving is the biggest question mark of our program,” said Cradock. “We have to have one, two, or even three of those men willing to step up and challenge themselves to be better each and every day. If all six do it together we could do really great things.”
The Retrievers will kick-off the 2007-08 season with an unscored meet at Bucknell on Oct. 6 and will then travel to
In order for Cradock and his team to succeed, his athletes must “never leave anything behind,” he said. “If they come into the pool each and every day and they don’t leave anything behind in the water or on dryland and they’ve done the best they can, then we should have a great season. We are looking to go beyond our success of past years.”
Twelve gold medals, six won by lost letterwinners. Ten school records, two set by lost letterwinners, and four relays that included two lost letterwinners. Two championship meet relay records, both which included two lost letterwinners.
The 2007-08 women’s swimming and diving team has some holes to fill.
With the loss of Agnes Stanislawska, Ashley Houghton, and Meghan Sackett, the Retrievers lose three individuals that accounted for 154 of their total 719 points scored en route to the first-ever America East Championship won by a women’s team for UMBC, in any sport.
After such a monumental season, head coach Chad Cradock and his team will have some high standards to live up to, and in order to be successful in a conference that’s wide open when it comes to the conference championship, the Retrievers are going to need to step up.
“We’re going to have to rely heavily on our team as a whole,” said Cradock. “You can’t say that we definitely have replaced everyone we’ve lost, but we could if we increase the depth amongst our program. In order to do that, we need our returning ladies to place higher at the conference, and our freshmen to really improve. I feel that we have that potential.”
Not only was
“The best thing about this conference is that we can’t take anything for granted,” Cradock said. “The women have never been comfortable in this conference and it’s wide open this year. We have to accept the challenge. We need the whole team as a group to accept it.”
And that group includes the nine freshmen that Cradock is bringing in for the 2007-08 season in addition to the 15 returning athletes. “We have the numbers coming in,” he said. “And quality can be there as well, but that comes with improvement, from fresh newcomers and the returners.”
One of those returners has improved from the moment she started at UMBC and now her name appears on the UMBC record board a grand total of seven times. Junior tri-captain Daniele Surkovich set new records in the 50, 100, and 200 freestyle events last year as well as a part of the 200, 400, and 800 free, and 400 medley relays, but Cradock sees more for her. “Daniele has her eyes set much higher. She comes in to the pool and never leaves anything behind. She puts her all in everything,” he said. “She is very focused on the sport and to her improvement. I know she will do great things.” Right behind her every step of the way will be senior Lindsey Engler and the two will form a great 1-2 combo for the Retrievers, while experience from senior Carly Fitzpatrick, juniors Christina Ng and Joy Wilde, and the additions of freshmen Danielle Cruz, Gabby Johnston, Sarah Ryan, and Erin Wohlers will form an extremely solid sprint group.
The loss of Sackett and Stanislawska delivered big hits to the Retrievers mid-distance category and Cradock may have to look at moving some people around in order to achieve the strength that he needs. “We’re going to have to look at Daniele maybe taking a move a little bit over there,” he said. “The newcomers and returners are going to have to fill in the gaps and someone is going to have to step up and be a leader in those events.” Surkovich and Engler will most likely see their fair share of action in the mid-distance events, while Cradock will also look to seniors Erin Matthews and tri-captain Lisa Robinson, junior Sarah Aichele, sophomores Kate Chialastri, Brittany Johnson and Lindsay Sherman, freshman Julia Cantwell, and Cruz, Ryan and Fitzpatrick to contribute as well.
The Retrievers losses may shake things up in the distance events a little, but with the addition of freshmen Rebecca Godwin and Cassie Dobrzanski coupled with the veteran experience of senior Rachel Lesslie, Matthews, Robinson, and Aichele, Cradock foresees success in the distance category. “I see improvement in Rachel already,” Cradock said. “She already has a different attitude towards swimming. I don’t see the distance taking a step back, but moving forward from last year.”
Lesslie will also provide much-needed experience in the backstroke events, while sophomore Tereza Kaplanova will also have an increased role. Kaplanova began making contributions in the backstroke towards the end of last season, but did not compete in the events at the conference meet. “Tereza is someone we have to count on in the backstroke,” said Cradock. With Fitzpatrick’s tremendous improvement last year and the addition of Cantwell, Cradock is “pretty excited to actually see where we can go with this event.” He also expects Robinson and senior Mary Scott to make contributions as well.
With a double conference champion in the 100 and 200 breast in junior tri-captain Tina Cantwell and top eight finishers in Wilde and Kaplanova, one of the Retrievers strongest events are the breaststroke events. And according to Cradock, it will get even stronger. “All of those ladies will get stronger,” he said. “We have to focus on our real strengths and this is one of them. We need them to step up together and accept the fact that is probably the strongest part of our team and go with it.” Cradock also expects a bigger role in the breaststroke events from Johnson and contributions from
The Retrievers boast another strong group of returners in the butterfly, as well as the additions of Johnston and Ryan to the ever-expanding list of butterfliers. Surkovich and Engler add depth in the 100 fly, while Sherman and Chialastri provide experience in both the 100 and 200 fly events, along with veteran Scott, providing Cradock with another event he will be able to score major points in. “We have brought in some great freshmen,” he said. “This is the strongest part of our freshman class. This is another strong event for us.”
Much like the men’s team, the women’s team has an enormous amount of talent in the IM events, even with the loss of school record-holder Stanislawska. Cantwell and Kaplanova were right behind Stanislawska last season and will lead the IM group this year, which Cradock believes will continue to pack a powerful 1-2-3 punch. Johnson and Wilde provide experience in the event, while newcomers Dobrzanski, Godwin, and Cantwell will bolster an already strong Retriever lineup. “We have the opportunity to do even better this year with the new class and with the amount of improvement the returners have made,” said Cradock.
Like the men’s diving team, the women will be starting anew in 2007-08, but the women go one step further and have no returning athletes and suffer a huge loss in Houghton. The incoming freshmen, Crystal Gall and Amanda Shinholser have great potential and Cradock “sees tremendous growth in this area.
The Retrievers kick-off the 2007-08 campaign with an unscored meet at Bucknell on Oct. 6 and then travel to Rider on Oct. 20 for their first scored meet with Rider. Aside from the addition of the
That success of course is dependent upon the individual athletes’ progress and in order to claim another conference crown, hard work and improvement will be essential, as the conference is getting stronger. “We have a great challenge before us,” Cradock said. “This could be a three, four, maybe a five-way race at the championships. We have to rely and count on each individual. We will have an opportunity to win this conference if we are improving and we are a stronger and better program.”