Husson University swimming opens the 2010-11 season Saturday at the Blue Jay Pentathlon hosted by St. Joseph’s (Conn.) College.
The Eagles will race under interim head coach Bruce Babin, appointed recently following the resignation of Jeff Wren, who had coached the team for two years.
“Overall, the makeup of the team is solid. We are a more experienced team than a year ago. Jeff certainly had this team headed in the right direction,” said Babin, who coaches the Hurricane Swim Club in addition to his duties with the Eagles.
Saturday’s meet includes swimmers from 10 schools.
“This meet provides a chance to see the freshmen in their first college swim race,” said Babin.
Five freshmen are on the roster, including Brewer’s Haili Fleishman, who swam at Brewer High, and Cassie Pray, a sprinter from Bangor.
“All the freshmen have prior high school experience and the returning swimmers gained valuable experience a year ago. We have deeper quality than a year ago,” Babin explained.
UMaine men open Saturday
In Boston, the University of Maine men open their season in a tri-meet against Boston University, picked to finish second in America East, and Bryant University of Rhode Island.
BU defeated Massachusetts in last weekend’s opening racing of the season for the Terriers, while the Bryant men lost to Boston College.
Leading the Terriers is Portland native Matt Rickett. Rickett, a graduate of Deering High and a senior at BU, in 2008-09 became the first BU male swimmer in 27 years to qualify for the NCAA Division I championships. Rickett qualified with a 46.4 100 fly and also has raced a very fast 50-yard free (20.08) for the Terriers.
Two swimmers from Maine compete for Bryant. Junior Konrad Lech, also of Deering, a 1:02 breaststroker, and frosh Derek Hawkes from Westbrook, a state Class B and New England champion in the 500 free, will race against coach Susan Lizotte’s Black Bears with 24 swimmers on the roster.
“I am very excited to see the men race. They have been training since August 30th. They are ready to race,” said Lizotte. “We are going after Bryant. They are the real deal.”
Swimming in BU’s 10-lane pool, BU, Bryant, and Maine will enter three swimmers in each event.
“We will have three very solid entries in each event. Our depth and the quality of our team have taken a step ahead of last year,” said Lizotte.
Heading the Black Bears are talented, experienced racers and team leaders Jeremy Bender, Andrew Meehan and Yuri Chornobil providing the Black Bears with both front-line freestyle and stroke racing abilities. At the same time, Lizotte noted three former local swimmers — Joey Quinn (Bangor), Robert Bickford (Old Town) and Brent Williams (Brewer) — have her attention.
“I am really excited about the freshmen and the Maine swimmers. They all are workhorses,” Lizotte acknowledged. Included in the freshman class with Quinn, Bickford and Williams is diver Tim Smith of Bangor, from whom Lizotte anticipates immediate contributions on both the one- and three-meter boards.
Divers bright spot for UM women
Meanwhile, the Maine women, defeated last weekend by Central Connecticut State University, will face a talented BU squad and a Bryant team which defeated Wagner last week after losing to Boston College a week earlier.
Despite competitive swims in a number of events, the Maine women fell 1-2 to CCSU in five events. Maine, however, finished first, second, and third in both diving competitions, 1- and 3-meter.
“The divers were all solid in their performances,” Lizotte said.
Freshman Kara Capossela won both diving events, and former Bangor High divers Ashley Higgins and Juliet Cobb finished second and third, respectively, in both competitions.
“I was mostly pleased with our swims. We had some solid performances. The first-year swimmers stepped up and swam solidly in their first college meet, and many of the veteran swimmers were ahead of where they were last year at the same point of the season,” Maine’s coach explained.
Specifically, Lizotte complimented freshmen Lauren Dwyer (25.5 50 free and 1:01 100 fly), Shannon Bender (10:52 1,000 free, 2:15 backstroke) and Courtney Mellish (5:22 500 free) for their performances in their initial college racing.
“As a team we need to continue to work on the little things like swimming into the turns, streamlining off the walls and the starts, and finishing.”
This week against Bryant, Lizotte’s team will be challenged to sprint 50-yard distances and to pace properly 200-yard distances in the strokes.
“The meet introduces a little twist in our racing with 50-yard and 200-yard stroke distances. We are more of a 200 stroke team,” Lizotte stated.