The 2012-13 Western Kentucky University swimming and diving team's season opener is only two days away, as the team takes on Delta State on Saturday, October 13 at 1 p.m. in Bill Powell Natatorium.
Both the men and women's team finished as runner-up in the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Championship, but with 36 returners and 21 newcomers, the Hilltoppers and Lady Toppers have their eyes on winning their respective conference championships this season.
Back in the Water
The Lady Toppers' main returners in the IM are sophomore Hannah Runyon-Hass and senior Alex Van Oost. Runyon-Hass made her Olympic Trial cuts this summer in the 200 and 400 IM, which is a big boost there for the team according to head coach Bruce Marchionda. Van Oost will be back in the 400 IM where she had a time of 4:19.32 in the Sun Belt Conference Championships that represented an NCAA provisional qualifying time.
On the men's side, sophomore Loui Little, junior Sam Dalton and senior Louis Bunch are all really good IMers returning for WKU to give the team a good group, Marchionda said. Little set a Bill Powell Natatorium record in the 400 IM last year while Dalton placed fifth in the 400 IM at the 2012 SBC Championships. Marchionda is also hoping senior David Rayner will help the team out in the IM this year.
Newcomers in the Lanes
Junior transfer Amy Halligan and freshman Allison Maher will both be called on to step up and help WKU in the IM this year.
Freshman Connor Dwyer, also a breaststroker, is going to go IM for the Hilltoppers this year to add to the team's solid foundation of returners
Back in the Water
For diving, returners and newcomers can basically be split as women's team and the men's team. The Lady Toppers return two senior divers in Caitlin Dean and Kylie Ruiz along with junior Elyse Madigan. "We are hopefully expecting them to finish their career on a high note," Marchionda said of the seniors.
Last year, Dean finished in the top-four nine times, including scoring in two events at the Sun Belt Conference Championships. Ruiz posted 12 top-10 times while also scoring in two events at the league championships.
Newcomers on the Boards
With all of last year's men divers no longer on the team due to graduation, WKU will rely heavily on two rookies in Giorgi Meyer and Brooks Price."Those guys are going to have some big shoes to fill and not much time to do it, so that is going to be fun."