Breaking 19 school records in one season is a feat few teams ever accomplish. In 2007-08, the North Texas women’s swimming and diving team did just that, setting school records in all 19 swimming events. The 2008-09 team has the talent and the depth to make another memorable season.
The 2008 Sun Belt Women’s Swimming Coach of the Year Joe Dykstra understands the strides the team made last season and how expectations are growing for 2008-09.
"Last year was a big step up as far the quality of the team and our overall competitiveness," said Dykstra. "We put ourselves in the upper echelon of the teams in the conference. My expectations for this season involve us being a much deeper team. The good thing about this sport is that it’s favored upon depth. Because of this, we could end up having a better team than last year’s. I would like us to continue breaking records and continue moving up in the conference."
North Texas returns 17 in a squad of 32 swimmers and divers.
Five of the swimmers returning (Alicia Hale, Emily Floyd, Nicole Leslie, Elizabeth Weiss, and Taryne Cantillo) received 2008 Sun Belt All-Conference honors by placing in the top three at the conference championships and hold individual school records, all of which were broken last season.
Junior Alicia Hale returns as one of the standout performers for the Mean Green. Last season, she placed in the top three at the conference championships in the 200 Freestyle, 400 Medley Relay, and 400 Freestyle Relay. Hale was also named Sun Belt Swimmer of the Week twice. She currently holds the all-time school records in the 200 Freestyle (1:50.27) and the 200 Individual Medley (2:06.76) and ranks second all-time five other events.
Hale was also part of three relay teams that set school records last season- 400 Freestyle Relay (3:28.27), 800 Freestyle Relay (7:34.10), 400 Medley Relay (3:48.65). All of these records were set at the 2008 Sun Belt Conference Championships.
"You’ve got to start with Alicia Hale," said Dykstra. "She is a model of consistency in her work ethic and racing. I expect her to be a real leader for us."
Junior Emily Floyd looks to continue her string of great performances this coming season. Floyd earned 2008 all-conference honors in the 500 Freestyle, and the 400 Freestyle Relay. She is the current all-time school record holder in three events- 500 Freestyle (4:54.19), 1000 Freestyle (10:22.74), 1650 Freestyle (17:27.07).
In relays, Floyd helped set school records in the 400 Freestyle Relay (3:28.27) and the 800 Freestyle Relay (7:34.10).
"I thought what Emily Floyd did last season, especially in the conference meet was phenomenal," said Dykstra. I think she can continue to build upon that success and be a leader for us in the freestyles."
Junior Nicole Leslie will be one of the fastest swimmers North Texas will have this season. Leslie set the all-time school record in the 50 Freestyle in 2007-08, clocking in at 23.75.
She was also part of the 200 Freestyle Relay, the 400 Freestyle Relay, and the 200 Medley Relay that established new school records and was named 2008 all-conference for the 200 Freestyle Relay and the 400 Freestyle Relay.
Another top swimmer returning for the Mean Green is junior Elizabeth Weiss. She set the all-time school record in the 100 Freestyle last season with a time of 51.95.
She was also a member of three relay teams that set school records in ’07-08 (200 Freestyle, 400 Freestyle, 200 Medley) and received 2008 all-conference honors in the 200 Freestyle Relay and the 400 Freestyle Relay.
"Nicole Leslie and Elizabeth Weiss will continue to lead us in the sprints," said Dykstra. They’ve done a great job."
The lone senior for North Texas this season will be Taryne Cantillo. In 2008, she set the all-time school records in the 100 Butterfly (57.92) and the 200 Butterfly (2:05.17).
She was also part of the 400 Medley Relay team that established a new school record (3:48.65) and was named all-conference in 2008 as a member of the 400 Medley Relay.
The Mean Green’s roster will include 15 newcomers including talented freshman, Rosa Gentile.
"Our headline freshman has got to be Rosa Gentile," Dykstra said. "She is one of the best prospects we’ve ever had. She was also recruited by Texas A&M and some other high level schools. She is one of the fastest swimmers in the state of Texas, placing second in the 100 fly at Texas 5A State Championships as a high school senior. I’m excited to see what she can do. Overall, the group we have coming in is very talented."
The Mean Green also hired a new diving coach, Jim Pyrch, who has extensive international coaching experience and was a long-time coach at Yale. Pyrch is a two-time National Diving Coach of the Year. Pyrch will coach four divers, the largest group in the Dykstra era. Newcomers Delia Covo and Lauren Hudson join returners Kim Nelson-Wulff and Whitney Tyrone.
The 2008-09 schedule features some of the best teams in the country including Texas A&M and SMU. North Texas will host the North Texas Mean Green Relays (TCU, SMU, Missouri State, Houston) and the Mean Green Duals (Arkansas, SMU, New Mexico State, Colorado State). The Mean Green recorded their first ever dual-meet wins last season versus TCU and Houston.
"There’s not a better way to measure yourself than to swim against the best," Dykstra said. "We’ve got a variety of schools we’re swimming against. I’m really excited about some of the home meets and the events we’re hosting, specifically, the North Texas Relays and the Mean Green Duals. Having those teams involved and coming to Denton, speaks volumes about the level of respect North Texas swimming and diving has achieved."