Swim season underway

After winning 10 straight Summit League championships, one could see how the Oakland University men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams could possibly become complacent with their success.


But head coach Pete Hovland is determined not to allow this to happen. His teams were voted the unanimous favorites to take the conference again this year.


“If there is any complacency, I haven’t seen it,” Hovland said. “It’s still early, but if that does enter into the picture, we would need to re-examine who we’ve got representing the Golden Grizzlies.”


Constant dedication is one of the main reasons Hovland has been able to keep Oakland atop the standings in swimming and diving for so many years. While the program lost a large chunk of their roster from last year’s team, opponents aren’t likely to take the Grizzlies lightly in the pool this year.


“We graduated 12 or 13 of our top swimmers last year and we’re redshirting our top swimmer, Marcin Unold,” Hovland said.


The 2008-09 season was a very successful one for OU’s teams. The men’s and women’s squads went 6-1 and 3-3, respectively, in dual meets. Hovland said that 56 school, pool and conference records were broken last season, in addition to his teams sweeping at the Summit League Championships.


Men’s swim team


On the men’s side, the 2009 Summit League Swimmer of the Year, Anders Jensen, returns for his sophomore season, along with other notable second year swimmers, Tim Montague and Scott Yarbrough. Senior Eddie Toro, last season’s 200- and 400-meter individual medley champion.


Senior Marcin Unold, the 2008 Summit League Swimmer of the Year, will be redshirted.


Even with the credentials of the returning swimmers, plenty of talent and experience was lost during the offseason. The current group of swimmers doesn’t expect a letdown, however, Jensen explained.


“This year, I’ll need to be someone who will boost people up, help them get up to a higher level and that’s a challenge for me,” he said. “I think it’s going be exciting to see what we can do this year. Obviously, we lost a lot of people last year, but I’m positive about this season.”


The men’s team is also one of the youngest Hovland has coached, but he said he hasn’t tempered his expectations because of it.


“This is one of my biggest challenges, especially with the men’s program, that I’ve had in a long time — we are so young. We have a handful of seniors and juniors, and the rest of the team is freshmen and sophomores,” Hovland said. “I think we’re going to take some bumps and bruises along the way, but if they can survive that, I think we’ll be okay come February in the conference championships.”


Women’s swim team


While the men’s team may be lacking experience, the women’s team has no such problem.


“On the women’s side, it might be one of the deepest teams we’ve had in a long, long time,” Hovland said. “The potential is there, so I’m excited for that.”


There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic this season, especially with the returning cast of swimmers.


Senior Agnes Solan, last season’s 100- and 200-meter backstroke winner at the Summit League Championship, is the team’s top returning swimmer.


She is joined by junior Kelli Dewey, who placed first in several events at the championships. Alyssa Vela, the 2008-09 Summit League Newcomer of the Year, will also play an important part for the women’s team.


Even with the returning talent and experience, Solan said she isn’t letting up on the competition.


“We’re hoping for the 11th championship, obviously, and hopefully some NCAA cuts as well. I just try to swim my best every meet and work on my times,” Solan said.


The team also has 11 freshmen who will be looking to make an impact in their first season.




While there is no shortage of talent for the swim teams, the diving program is one spot Hovland said he can point to that will need to improve as the season progresses.


“Right now, diving is an area of concern and an area of weakness because the teams we compete against in the Midwest all have great divers,” Hovland said. “It will definitely be one of our focuses in the upcoming recruiting cycle.”


One reason for Hovland’s concern is the lack of depth on the men’s diving team. Senior Adam Ralph has been ruled ineligible for the fall semester, leaving true freshmen David Craycraft as the only diver for the men’s side.


“David will really have to hold down the fort until Adam is eligible in January,” said Hovland.


Juniors Chelsea Oates, Jaclyn Kurpinski, and Natalie Torano, as well as sophomores Marcella Barretta and Jocelyn Odom make up the women’s diving team. Hovland said the experience gained by the quintet last year will prove invaluable and go a long way toward their success this season.