Mixed results in DeMont’s first year as UA swim coach

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                </div>  Rick DeMont just hit a couple of big speed bumps on the road to a successful run through the Pac-12 in his first season as the new head coach […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Rick DeMont just hit a couple of big speed bumps on the road to a successful run through the Pac-12 in his first season as the new head coach for the University of Arizona swimming & diving program.

For the first time this season, both his men’s and women’s teams fell in a dual meet.  And it happened in back-to-back match-ups with a couple of California teams over the weekend.

But these weren’t just any teams.  The first test for the Wildcats came on Friday when they hosted Stanford, which boasts the nation’s No. 3 women’s team and the No. 7 men’s team.  And before they could recover from that setback, in came California, which features the top women’s team in the country and the No. 3 men’s squad.

The No. 14-ranked men fell to Stanford, 160-101, and to Cal, 205-93.  The No. 14 UA women lost to the Cardinal, 145-111, and the Golden Bears, 157-143, in a dual meet that wasn’t determined until the final relay of the day.

Arizona’s women were undefeated through four duals coming into this weekend and had already beaten conference foes UCLA and USC.  But the men’s only dual win came on Jan. 2 when they topped Missouri.

Against Cal, the Wildcats got strong performances from their diving corps.  The women swept the top three places in the 3-meter event, with Samantha Pickens finishing first with 312.60 points, followed by Sally Hackett (294.75) and Michal Bower (277.20).  Pickens also won the 1-meter competition (320.03).  On the men’s side, Rafael Quintero won both the 1-meter (353.70) and the 3-meter (415.88).

In the individual events, Brad Tandy finished first in the men’s 50 free (19.95) and Emma Schoettmer won both the women’s 100 breast (1:01.50) and 200 breast (2:13.52).  Tjasa Oder added a win in the 1,000 free for the women, finishing in 9:53.28.

This will be the first full season for DeMont as the Wildcats’ head coach, although he’s been with the program for 25 years.  He stepped in last year to take over as interim head coach when Eric Hansen resigned midway through his third year in charge of the program.  Hansen had taken a leave of absence as the season began and eventually decided to resign “for personal matters.”

DeMont’s first test as the new head coach was actually last season when he was officially given the reins of the program in time for the last regular-season meet, but one of the most important of the season.  He led the Cats to a sweep of rival Arizona State, winning both the men’s and women’s competition.

DeMont is no stranger to winning, both as an athlete and as a  coach.  He was a four-year All-American in college, spending the first two years swimming for the University of Washington and the final two at Arizona, where he earned eight All-America honors during those two seasons.  He was also the world record-holder in the 1500m freestyle, the 400 free, and the 4×100 freestyle relay, and became the first swimmer to break the four-minute barrier in the 400 meter..

After leaving college, he moved into coaching and earned recognition world-wide as a top sprint freestyle coach.

He inherited a program at UofA in need of rebuilding on the men’s side.  That team finished seventh at the NCAA’s last season but graduated a lot of talent, although it did return senior Kevin Cordes, the 11-time All-American who came into the season as the American record-holder in the 100 and 200 breaststroke events.  Eleven of the 12 new additions to the 2014-15 roster came directly out of high school.

The women, who finished eighth at the NCAA’s, are deeper than the men this year, but lost Margo Geer to graduation.  Geer owns the school record in the 100 free, as well as the NCAA title in that event.  She also swam the first leg of a very successful 400 free relay team.

DeMont and the Wildcats will get a break away from Pac-12 competition when they hit the road this week to take part in a tri-meet with the University of Texas and Southern Methodist over the weekend.

After last weekend’s California challenge, the Cats should be well-prepared to take on the Texas schools.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)