Frosh make impact in UA swimming season-opener wins

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                </div>  The college swimming season has just begun and already the University of Arizona women’s team is reaping rewards from a recruiting class that was ranked No. 3 in the […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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The college swimming season has just begun and already the University of Arizona women’s team is reaping rewards from a recruiting class that was ranked No. 3 in the nation.

In triangular-meet competition with Washington State and UNLV, the Wildcat women freshmen collected 12 individual wins as the Cats cruised past the Cougars, 182-98, and the Rebels, 198-94.

Arizona hosted the competition at Hillenbrand Aquatic Center on its Tucson campus; in the same venue, the men’s team matched up in a dual meet with the reigning WAC conference champion, UNLV.  The UofA men, too, dominated their event, beating the Rebels, 197-92, by winning all but one event.

But it’s the women’s team that is drawing the attention, due in large part to the expectations that come with a highly-ranked recruiting class.  This class, with three top-20 nationally-ranked swimmers, is expected to be a big step in Rick DeMont‘s rebuilding program that he began last year after being elevated to head coach.

Last year in his inaugural season, the women finished 15th at the NCAA Championships and the men came in 13th; both teams had fourth-place finishes at the Pac-12 Championships.

But, based on DeMont’s recruiting success so far, the women’s team will be challenged by higher expectations this season.

Bonnie Brandon, a two-time All-America selection, is back for her senior year after setting a new school record in the 1,650 free (15:48.35).  She will be looked upon for leadership this season as the team breaks in 11 newcomers.

But it’s those frosh who will make the difference if the team is to take a step up on the national stage. The 2015 class is headlined by Taylor Garcia, a sprint freestyler who also competes in the 100 back and fly and comes in with a No. 8 national ranking, and Katrina Konopka, one of the nation’s best high school talents in the backstroke and ranked No. 13.  The third top-20 recruit is Daniela Georges, the No. 17-ranked prepster who will give the Cats a huge boost in the 500 freestyle and is also an elite competitor in the 400 IM and the 200 free.

The women’s team won all but two events against WSU and UNLV.

Brandon won the 200 backstroke in 1:58.64, as Arizona swept the top three spots in that event.  Cameron McHugh ((1:59.70) and Annie Ochitwa (2:01.99) rounded out the 1-2-3 finish.  Brandon also led the way in the 200 free, as the Cats took the top four spots: Brandon (1:48.79), Georges (1:49.87), McHugh (1:51.07) and Jenna Bauer (1:52.14).

The freshmen were also busy contributing elsewhere.  Garcia was a part of the winning 200 medley relay team, joining Emma Schoettmer, Mackenzie Rumrill, and Taylor Schick; she also finished second in the 100 back with a time of 55.36.

Georges was runner-up in both the 200 free and the 500 free.  And Konopka won the 50 free (22.99) and took second in the 100 free (50.71), while also swimming a leg of the runner-up 200 medley relay team.

The women’s team is now deeper than it has been for some time and the incoming freshmen should help make this one of the better mid-distance groups in the country.

DeMont didn’t inherit a wealth of talent when he took over last year.  But he’s already begun the process of building up the roster with an eye to future success.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)