MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Northern Michigan University swimming and diving team will kick off the 2012-13 campaign with the annual Green and Gold meet Saturday, Sept. 29 from the PEIF Pool.
“I feel great about the team heading into the season,” third-year NMU coach Heidi Voigt said. “This is the first year that everybody is on the same page and committed to moving up in the conference. Everyone is doing what they need to do to get better and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Last season, the Wildcats finished fourth at the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship and had two swimmers qualify for the NCAA Championship. Gaby Alzaga, now a senior, finished eighth in the 200-yard backstrokes at the NCAA meet, to become an All-American. Alzaga also swam the 100 back. The other qualifier was Emily Brennan, now a sophomore, who swam the 400-yard individual medley, 200 IM and 200 breaststroke.
“Our relays need to be better this year to get better team scores,” said Voigt. “Last year our 800 relay was at the end of the last session, but it’s being moved up to the first day this year, and it will help our team a lot. For us to be moving up, two things need to happen. Our relays need to be better and our divers need to score higher. We have four quality divers who will help with team scoring.”
NMU returns 18 from last year and welcomes five freshmen. Along with Alzaga the other two seniors are Olga Budiansky and Lauren Cockels. Budianksy placed third in the 200 backstroke at the GLIAC Championship and also holds the school record in the 200 breaststroke (2:21.06).
“Gaby, our All-American from last year, is our captain,” Voigt said. “Olga and Lauren, the other two seniors, will also be great leaders for us.”
Meghan Cepela is the lone junior on the squad. NMU is dominated with sophomores as Kayla Barr, Emily Bourgignon, Brennan, Megan Crowder, Tara Dowling, Taylor Grimm, Jordan Iverson, Pam Johnson, Debbi Lawrence, Aspen McHugh, Dakota Sechena and Madisen Sechena all return for their second season.
Lawrence was the team most valuable swimmer last year and set a pool record in the 200 medley. She also had three individual top 10 finishes at GLIAC Championship, as did Madisen Sechena.
Northern’s three freshmen swimmers are Crystal Bennet, Caitlyn Brenden and Samantha Clemence.
Two sophomores and two freshmen make up the divers. Sophia Garris and Molly Kearney return for the ‘Cats and Bridget Waas and Arianna Ringold are new additions. Garris placed seventh in the three-meter dive and eighth in the one-meter dive at the conference meet.
After opening the season at home against Hillsdale (Oct. 12-13), NMU will travel to St. Cloud/Minnesota-State Moorhead (Oct. 19-20) before returning home to face UW-Eau Claire (Nov. 3). The ‘Cats will stay on the road as they travel to Stevens Point, Wis. for the Border War Invite (Nov. 9-10) and round out 2012 at the Calvin College Invite (Nov. 29-Dec. 1) in Grand Rapids, Mich.
“I feel like we’re competing against more quality teams this year and that’s going to help big time,” Voigt added. “We’ll get some long course training during our winter training trip to Puerto Rico and they’re will be several Division I teams to compete against in our last meet before the conference championship.”
The final swimming meet of the season is at the San Juan Invite (Jan. 6) over winter break. Northern will hold two more events at the PEIF Poll with the NMU Diving Event (Jan. 11-12) and the Wildcat Intrasquad (Jan. 19). The GLIAC Championship (Feb. 6-9) is in Canton, Ohio and the NCAA Championship (March 5-9) is in Cleveland, Ohio.
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