Head Coach Kristin Hill leads the 2010-11 Boise State University women's swimming and diving team in search of the hard work, dedication and magic that helped the Broncos capture the 2010 Western Athletic Conference Championship in the program's fourth year of existence. This year's class of seniors is the first recruiting class in program history, and Hill knows they want to finish what they came here to start- a winning tradition. "Our senior class is a treasure and they have contributed so much over their first three years," Hill said. "They all feel a sincere commitment to this team and I know that every one of them has the ability to make great contributions to the team during their final season. Their best swimming in their personal careers can certainly come this season, and we anticipate that for all of them." In addition to the seniors, the Broncos will lean heavily on a decorated junior class, a talented bunch of sophomores and a group of freshmen that is the most highly-touted recruiting class in school history.
"Everybody wants to repeat as WAC Champions, and that is certainly a goal of ours," said Hill. "But it won't be easy. We have some strong teams in our conference that don't want to see that happen. New Mexico State was right behind us, and they seemed to get stronger as the conference meet went on. San Jose State is a team that definitely was battling it out, especially on relays last year. Nevada went into last season looking for a fourth-consecutive conference championship. So, that is a team that knows they have that kind of potential. It will be fun. We look forward to the competition, and certainly won't take it lightly."
Hill and the Broncos are looking to leave a permanent mark on the WAC before Boise State joins the Mountain West Conference next season.
"Our goal is always for everybody to have best times," Hill said. "And if that happens everything else takes care of itself. There is no way for us to get away from the fact that we want to win the WAC Championship again. If everybody does their part, that's when those sorts of things happen, and that's what happened last season."
The Boise State swimming and diving team brings back all but three scorers from the conference meet last season. Hill and assistant coach Justin Brosseau guide a swimming squad with unprecedented depth at every event. Diving coach David Legler looks to improve on what was the best diving season by a Bronco team in his second season with the program.
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In Good Company
Five Bronco swimmers qualified for the 2010 ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships. Senior Denise Green, juniors Amber Boucher and Stephanie North, and Freshmen Rachel Heaney and Chelsea Miller became the first Boise State swimmers to qualify for the event. Boucher, Green and Miller took part in the event which featured 30 U.S. Olympians.
"They were able to see people who they've read about, seen on TV or watched videos of," said Hill. "So, to be in the same pool as them is a great honor and a great confidence-builder. It's also great for recruiting. It's a stepping stone we didn't have the past couple of years, and it makes a big difference."
Not only was it an unforgettable experience, but one that could make a big difference come the end of this season.
"Nationals is big for experience," Hill said. "If they've competed at a meet at that level, when they walk into NCAAs for the first time, they will have already been in an atmosphere close to that."
Three Bronco swimmers have set their sights even higher. This summer, Stephanie North (50 free) and Rachel Heaney (200 fly) each qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. Christine Raininger is also eyeing international competition as she holds qualifying marks for the 2012 Canadian Olympic Trials in the 100 fly, 200 fly, 200 IM and 400 IM.
Pushing Each Other
As the Boise State women's swimming and diving program continues to grow and improve, the competition between teammates becomes more fierce. There were 11 instances last season a Bronco took over a school record from a teammate. With another talented group of freshmen, and another season of collegiate-level training for the veterans, there are sure to be more intrasquad battles than ever before. Two of the closest races will be in the breaststroke events.
"Our team is awesome about keeping healthy competition alive, and it's pretty neat to watch that kind of thing happen," Hill said. "We don't know who will end up on top, but in the breaststroke Chelsea Miller has a good shot at setting school records in the 100 and 200 breaststroke, but Emily won't let those go down without a fight. Kelly Forrester is right there in the 100 breaststroke, as well as Tara Hahto who has really come along since last fall."
Another tight race will be in the 200 butterfly. Hill also expects more events to go back and forth, but, as was the case last year, those will remain unknown until the competitive juices start flowing.
"The 200 butterfly is an event really up for grabs," Hill said. "Christine Raininger comes back strong as the defending WAC champion, and newcomer Rachel Heaney will be right with her training every day, and pushing each other to be better. That's the great thing about our program, though, we always have surprises."
The Young and the Relentless
A big reason for the Broncos' success as a team last season was the freshmen stepping up at the WAC Championships. Boise State freshmen contributed 273 points at the conference meet. The freshmen of 2010-11 may not be asked to carry such a heavy load, but the coaching staff will not put it past them. The freshmen will be a big part of the equation to fill the hole left by the 2009-10 seniors. Last year's graduating class had its hand in 190 points at the WAC Championships, including 175 from Chelsea Lopus. Hill is excited for this year's class to show everyone its vast potential.
"We can expect very big things from this group," said Hill. "Obviously what last year's class did all season, and especially at the WAC Championships, was special. As a program however, we want to continue to build on that, and this year we have a very powerful freshman class. All the way across the board there is potential for top-eight finishes at conference, as well as our first set of NCAA qualifiers."
The Broncos open the 2010-11 season with a home dual meet Oct. 8-9, against Rice at the West YMCA in Boise. From there, the Broncos head to the desert for a pair of dual meets at New Mexico State against the host Aggies and North Texas, Oct. 22-23. The Broncos will be spread across Arizona in November, with the divers competing at the Wildcat Diving Invitational in Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 19-21, while the swimmers travel to Flagstaff for a WAC meet against Northern Arizona, Nov. 20. The fall schedule rounds out at the Missouri Invitational in Columbia, Mo., Dec. 3-5.
Boise State will spend the holiday season in Southern California for training and a dual meet against UCLA, Jan. 7. The Broncos will also compete in the San Diego Relays, Jan. 9.
The team will gear up for the championship meets with competitions against familiar opponents. Seattle will come to the West YMCA Jan. 14-15, for the Broncos' second and final home meet of the year. In the following weeks, Boise State will be making a tour of the northwest with a dual meet at Washington State, Jan. 21, followed by a dual at Idaho, Jan. 22. The head-to-head schedule will wrap up with a pair of duals in the Emerald City where Seattle will host the Broncos and Oregon State. Hill wants to achieve more than just wins against the regional rivals.
"One of our goals is to be the number one swimming and diving program in the Northwest," Hill said,."And that's why we have all of the other area teams on our schedule, including Seattle, Oregon State, Washington State, and Idaho. But even more than that, since the inception of our program in 2006, we have always built a schedule that allowed us to swim schools at a higher level than us. Last year we faced Washington State and got our first win against a Pac-10 school. This year we have three Pac-10 schools on our schedule, with UCLA, Washington State and Oregon State. This level of competition makes us better as a team. It's also important to me to see new teams from different parts of the country, and we'll travel to Columbia, Mo., again this year for the Missouri Invitational in December which is a great meet with high level competition."
The Broncos will look to defend their conference title at the WAC Championships Feb. 23-26, in San Antonio, Texas. For qualifying Broncos, the Zone Diving Championships will be March 11-13 in Minneapolis, Minn., and the NCAA Championships take place March 17-19 in Austin, Texas.