DENTON, Texas (7/20/07) - After a season in which the Mean Green posted 17 of the school’s 21 records, the North Texas swimming and diving program appears to have a perfect recipe for success.
North Texas is coming off its most successful season in school history after tallying a dual-meet season record of 7-5 and a fourth-place finish at the Sun Belt Conference Championships.
“We’re ready to take a leap forward as far as what it takes to be an elite program,” said second-year head coach Joe Dykstra. “We had an introduction last year. This year we need to take an even bigger step forward.”
Fifteen letterwinners return from last season’s squad, including eight seniors. Hannah Bakke and Bonnie Garcia-Meitin are two seniors who are expected to lead the Mean Green throughout the 2007-08 season. Bakke broke the school record in the 100 breaststroke four separate times last season. She currently holds four of the school’s top-five times in the event and finished fourth at the SBC Championships.
Garcia-Meitin, a three-year letterwinner for the Mean Green, posted nine individual first-place finishes last season. She holds all five top times in school history in the 100 backstroke and the top four in the 200 backstroke. Garcia-Meitin also took part in three record-breaking relays last season.
“Bonnie (Garcia-Meitin) is in the best shape she’s ever been in to start a season. She’s highly motivated right now to finish her senior year making an NCAA consideration cut and really having a great season.”
North Texas also returns two other individual school-record holders for their sophomore year. Nicole Leslie returns after making quite a splash last season as a freshman. Leslie is the Mean Green record holder in the 50 and 100 freestyle. Her three medals at the SBC Championships last season were the most by any Mean Green swimmer.
“Nicki is light years ahead of where she was a year ago.” Dykstra said. “I expect for her to be a real strong force for us in the sprints. She learned so much last year and I think she’s ready to take on the role of being our dominant sprinter.”
Alicia Hale, who broke six school records as a freshman, will lead the Mean Green in the mid-distance freestyle and individual medley races. Hale finished fourth at the SBC Championships in the 200 free. Only one time last season did Hale fail to notch a first-place finish during a dual meet.
A total of 11 newcomers, seven freshmen and four transfers, will help add depth to the North Texas program looking for a repeat of last season’s success.
“This class will make us a much deeper, and thus a more dangerous team in the region and in the Sun Belt Conference.” Dykstra said. “We’re now going to be able to put three swimmers in the water for each event who all give us a great chance of winning.”
Taryne Cantillo will bring experience and two years of eligibility to the Mean Green after transferring from Centenary where she won the team’s Swimmer of the Year honor as only a freshman. Originally from Georgetown, Texas, Cantillo set the school records in the 100-yard butterfly, 200-yard butterfly, and the 100-yard backstroke. She also was part of school-record setting teams for the 200-yard medley relay, 400-yard medley relay, and 800-yard freestyle relay.
Rosita Bado is another swimmer Dykstra expects to be an instant contributor in the backstroke and individual medley. Bado, from Georgetown, has already posted times in the 100 and 200 back that would rank second among current Mean Green swimmers, just behind Garcia-Meitin, who holds the record in both the 100 and 200 backstroke.
Kelly Gordon was a four-year letterwinner at Fort Bend Elkins High School who was a state qualifier in the 100 fly as a sophomore. Her personal-best times in the 100 and 200 fly are both faster than the current school record. Gordon was also named to the Scholastic All-American team.
The Mean Green returns two divers and welcome one newcomer to its diving program. New diving coach Summer Allman will help with the development of the current North Texas divers. Allman, formerly Summer Mitchell, was a two-time All-American at the University of Texas and Michigan State.
With all the returning talent and new additions, the Mean Green is not shying away from some of the nation’s top programs. North Texas will square off against three teams who finished in the top 15 last season.
“I think it says a lot about the program that those types of teams are willing to schedule us,” Dykstra said. “Scheduling these types of teams will help us in the long run as far as our preparation for the conference championships.”