Swimming season preview
Oct. 14, 2009
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - It's onward and upward for the 2009-2010 Commodore swimming and diving team, as the squad welcomes back eight letter winners with valuable experience under their belts after a busy year. Vanderbilt is on the rise in just its fourth season since bringing the program back in December of 2006 after a 14-year absence and looks to build off a record-breaking campaign.
This year's team has three upperclassmen; Jennifer Molchan, Anna Fargo and Jess Cohen. Cohen is the team's lone senior this season, so once again the Commodores display a lot of young talent.
The third year since the return was a tremendous success as the Commodores re-wrote the school record books and improved across the board en route to putting up their best times of the season at the Southeastern Conference Championships hosted by Auburn. Vanderbilt set six school records and tied another in a landmark season despite having nine freshmen and 15 total underclassmen out of 19 on the roster. The Commodores also won their first meets since re-starting the program in December of 2006, capturing victories over Centre and Rhodes in a dual meet they hosted in October at the Centennial Sportsplex.
Head coach Jeremy Organ enters his fourth year in charge of Vanderbilt and expects to continue seeing what has come to mark this team over the past three seasons: progress.
"I think that we've just got to try keep getting better," Organ said. "I'm not really sure if we need to worry about wins or losses so much as each individual getting better. Because of that, we should get more successful as far as the wins and losses go.
"The next goal is to hopefully, within the next year or two, have our first SEC win, which is going to be a difficult task. That's a pretty big jump, a pretty big goal. But I think it's one we have to strive for."
The Commodores welcome eight new swimmers in this year's freshman class that gives Organ the deepest team he's had in his tenure.
Rose Cornelson, Erika Deardorf, Jessica Eccher, Betsy Galenti, Ellen Kilgore, Sarah Lynch, Chelsea Morey and Amy Salce make up the team's class of 2013, while sophomore Stephanie Falcone will join the Commodores after swimming for Loyola (Md.) last year. All nine of the newcomers boast top-notch resumes in competitive swimming for their high school and club teams.
"It's a very balanced class, and I think it's one that's going to be very competitive all four years," Organ said. "I think we can go out with a pretty solid team now. We don't give up anything anymore because of being so young."
Despite having one of the youngest teams in the nation last year, Vanderbilt still enjoyed considerable success.
Molchan, freshman Allie Voss and freshman Laura Dillon all set school records in their events at Vanderbilt's final event of the year, the SEC Championships, demonstrating the level of progress the team made during the season.
Molchan, the team's top freestyler in 2009, broke a 19-year Vanderbilt mark in the 100-yard freestyle, swimming a remarkable time of 52.21. Dillon broke an old record in the 100-yard breaststroke in the fall but Voss topped it at the SEC Championships with a 1:05.78. Dillon also set the 200-yard breaststroke school record in the fall and then broke her own mark at the SEC's with a 2:19.56, beating her old time by nearly three seconds.
Two 19-year relay records also fell at the SEC's. The team of Molchan, Voss and freshmen Kelly Obranowicz and Zoe Cooper-Surma, broke the school record in the 200-yard medley relay by nearly a full second with a 1:46.31. Molchan, Voss, Obranowicz and sophomore Anna Fargo also topped the 400-yard freestyle relay school record at the SEC's with a 3:30.66.
Diver Nicole Woodworth made her presence known in her freshman season, breaking Patti Woodcock's 22-year old school record in the one-meter dive against South Carolina with a score of 288.53. She also tied Woodcock's 1987 mark in the three-meter dive in the same meet.
The youngest team in the powerful SEC wasn't fazed by the level of competition, and their hard work during the year was evident as the Commodores constantly broke their own best times and competed closely with elite swimmers and divers from around the country. As well as hosting two meets, Vanderbilt also went to Houston for the Phil Hansel Duals and to Western Kentucky for the Hilltopper Invitational. The team also locked horns with SEC teams Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and South Carolina in hard-fought meets, all on the road.
At the SEC Championships, Vanderbilt shined, with 17 swimmers setting at least one personal record in the final meet of the season. The Commodores also posted team-best times of the season in eight different events. Riding that wave of momentum into this season, the team has both the ability and the desire to make the program one of the conference's best.
In addition, Organ expects the Commodores to continue to have a strong camaraderie that he has seen grow from season to season while coaching in Nashville.
"I really think this class of kids coming in, that this group that we now have, that team is going to be very close, which is only going to help us when times get tough," Organ said. "In some of those dual meets or tough times during the season when the academic part is stressing on everybody and the swimming part is starting to get hammer-down on them, that group cohesiveness is really going to start to pay off."
To that end, the many returning Commodores are going to be looked to for guidance by the team's new swimmers.
"I think that's huge, especially with the size of the group coming in. These girls that now have now a year or two years under them are going to help that transition for the freshmen, because it is pretty tough," Organ said. "It's not easy to just walk in and go to school here, and the first semester is pretty important as far as training goes for the swimming. We get going right away. It's a pretty tough adjustment, so I think that with those girls that have been here, done that, now it's going to make that transition easier for those freshmen."
If they make as good a transition as Vanderbilt's other swimmers did in their first seasons, then this could be a special season for the Commodore program.
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