February 23, 2006

W. Swimmers Take On Ivy Opponents

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The women’s swimming and diving team enters Blodgett Pool at Harvard for the Ivy championships today, primarily focused on improving personal times and realize that success on the scoreboard will not indicate the true strength of the team. Head coach John Holohan noted that despite a winless season (0-7) against fellow Ivy competitors, the team has had a successful season and can put up numbers in this individual competition.

“Several girls have had times that are lifetime bests,” Holohan said. “That’s where the emphasis has been this season, focusing on individual performances.”

The 2005-2006 campaign has been highlighted by great performances from seniors Jessica Brookman, Kristin Rayhack, Elissa Kline and Ashley Johnson, and sophomores Leah Tourtellotte and Emilie Rennie, all of whom enter this weekend hoping to cap off the season with a personal-best performance.

Brookman has had a tremendous season, with highlights including an eighth and 25th place finish in the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard backstroke, respectively, at the U.S. Open. In the process, Brookman has had her name etched into many of Cornell’s swimming records. She will compete in three events this weekend and is expecting a top-3 finish in each. Her performances have gotten better as the season has progressed and Holohan is looking for big things from her this weekend.

“Jess is a great competitor, I’m hoping for her to set lifetime bests in all three of her events,” Holohan said.

Holohan also hopes for a strong finish for Johnson and Tourtellotte, who he would like to see finish in the top eight. Johnson will compete in the 100 butterfly and Tourtellotte will race in the 50, 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle. Rayhack will dive in both the 1M and 3M board. After coming off strong performances in the warm-ups, Rayhack hopes for a big performance in her last collegiate dive.

“I feel really strong and hope to continue the progression of strong performances this season,” she said.

In this kind of open competition between all eight Ivy squads, Holohan told his swimmers to try to win the close races and beat other swimmers who hold similar times to them, rather than try to compete against entire colleges. This is part of Holohan’s strategy for building the women’s program at Cornell – focus on individual performances and improvements, which will eventually translate into points on the scoreboard and victories against Ivy foes.

Strong performances at this weekend’s championships will cap off a season of great strides for the team and setup the Red for more competitive years to come. Even though Cornell will lose many seniors after the season, especially standouts Brookman and Rayhack, Holohan expects the team to continue its improvement over the next few seasons.

Next year’s squad will have another year of experience to build upon. Tourtellotte and Rennie will be veteran leaders, and current freshmen Mary Cirella, Katie Gryka, Laura Luedke, Emma Wondergum and Sarah Yan – all of whom qualified for entry into this weekend’s championships – will have earned valuable time in the pool. Additionally, Holohan feels that the incoming recruiting class is particularly strong, and should make an impact.

“I think in the next two or three years there’ll be a difference on the scoreboard,” Holohan said.

Archived article by Tim Perone
Sun Contributor