AMES, Iowa – This season marks the 17th year that Duane Sorenson will be leading Iowa State into competition as the head coach of the swimming and diving team. During his tenure, every school record previously held at Iowa State has fallen. Yet, the expectation is to have the best season in school history.
“I want to help lead my team to the best season that Iowa State has ever had,” said senior team captain and middle distance specialist Alex Gustafson. “I’m doing it all for the last time, so I’m really trying to make everything the best that I can.”
In addition to a talented and highly touted freshman class, the Cyclones will be returning 23 athletes from a team that finished fifth overall at the Big 12 Championships last March. Sorenson and his staff have been preparing all summer to contend for the conference title in the 2013-14 season.
“The door is open,” Sorenson said. “We just have to step through.”
Led by redshirt senior and two time team captain (2012-13, 2013-14) Jessica Henderson, the Iowa State divers plan to be a big part of the Cyclone’s success this season. After three top-three finishes in Iowa State’s first two meets of the 2012-13 seasons, Henderson’s junior year was cut short by a concussion. After a long layoff, head diving coach Jeff Warrick is excited to see her back on the boards.
“We’re expecting big things from her this year,” said Warrick. “You can see that competitiveness start to come out.”
The Cyclones will also be leaning on 2012-13 most valuable diver Elyse Brouillette. As a freshman, Brouillette lead Iowa State on all three boards, becoming fourth overall in school history on all three boards, and ultimately earning her newcomer of the year in the 2012-13 season. After finishing fourth on 1-meter, ninth on 3-meter and fifth on platform at the Big 12 Championships, Brouillette anticipates similar results for all of ISU’s divers this year.
“I would really love to see all three of us divers make it to Zones this year and place in the top 10 at the Big 12 Championship,” said Brouillette.
Breaststroke and IM
Under Sorenson, the breaststroke events have become a strength for the Cyclones. Since 1998, Iowa State has received Big 12 honors 20 times for breaststroke events. With the senior leadership of school record holders Emily Wiltsie (200 breaststroke) and Imelda Wistey (100 breaststroke), the Cyclones are well positioned to continue earning conference recognition.
Sorenson recognizes that in order to achieve their goals at the Big 12 Championships, reaching the finals in the 200 breaststroke must be a priority.
“The events that we really need to improve on are 200 breaststroke, 200 fly, and 100 free,” said Sorenson. “Those are the three races that we didn’t have anyone in the finals at in the Big 12’s on the final day.”
If 2013-14 team caption Emily Wiltsie can perform at her record-breaking pace, Iowa State can count on a high finish in the 200 breaststroke at the conference meet in March. Looking to add depth to the event, Imelda Wistey has been training for the 200 breaststroke throughout the offseason.
“Imelda was a finalist in the 100 breaststroke,” explained Sorenson. “And we are trying to get her mentally and physically to the point where she can be a finalist in [the 200 breaststroke].”
The Cyclones will be returning a core group of swimmers in the individual medley events consisting of Sarah Deis, Wistey, Ali Sterns, Kristy Kunkel, and Wistey; leading the charge is the junior Deis. With a top 10 finish in the 400 IM at last year’s conference meet, Deis will be called upon to earn the Cyclones points at the Big 12 Championship once again this spring.
Butterfly and Backstroke
Bre Loeschke had arguably the best season of any Iowa State swimmer in backstroke events in recent years. The Minnesota native broke the Iowa State school record in the 200 backstroke at the Big 12 Championships last year with a time of 1:56.90. She also finished in fifth in the 100 backstroke on her way to earning 2012-13 most improve swimmer honors. The Cyclones will once again be relying on the junior to score points at the conference meet this year.
Sorenson and the Cyclones will enjoy some depth in the roster for the butterfly events as a handful of freshmen including Savanna Townsend, McKenzie Goudreau, and Michaela Kinter join the squad. Senior Carissa Poeschel and Junior Elizabeth Kleiner will be leading the effort in the butterfly events.
Poeschel, who finished 17th and 18th in the 100 and 200 butterfly, respectively, at last year’s Big 12 Championship, will continue to be a source of points for Iowa State throughout the upcoming season. Kleiner, Iowa State’s top 200 flier, will also be looking for a finalist spot at the conference meet this season.
“Elizabeth Kleiner, on paper, is our fastest 200 flier,” Sorenson said. “Hopefully she can put together a good season and a good Big 12 meet in the 200 fly to be a finalist in that event.”
After setting the school record in the 50 freestyle as a freshman, two-time ISU most valuable swimmer Amanda Paulson only improved during her sophomore year. After racking up eight first-place finishes in her signature event, Paulson finished sixth at the conference meet last year despite being sick throughout the championships.
“She started the first night out on fire in relays and individually in the 50 free,” recalled Sorenson on Paulson’s Big 12 Championship performance. “If she would have been healthy, she would have been a finalist in the 100 free.”
Senior teammate Katie Vollhaber also had a memorable performance at the Big 12 Championships during her junior year posted three top 15 times in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, and the 200 freestyle: 14th, 12th, and 10th, respectively.
“Katie Vollhaber has really got a lot more confidence,” Sorenson said. “Both of them [Paulson and Vollhaber] have a shot to be in the finals of the 100 free.”
The Cyclones are adding depth to their freestyle events with a talented batch of freshmen including Megan Childs, Goudreau, Brooke Evensen, Townsend, Maddie Rastall, and Karyl Clarete. Middle distance specialist and Canadian native Clarete burst onto the scene during Iowa State’s annual intrasquad meet by outpacing the field in the 500 freestyle by over eight seconds. Clarete is still very much in the middle of a transition from swimming meters to yards, but she has started her career at Iowa State on a high note as she looks to be a major contributor to the team this season.
“Karyl is going to be a big point scorer for us,” said Sorenson.
Iowa State opens competition against former Big 12 rival Nebraska at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday in Lincoln.