Swimmers Aim For New Heights In 2000-2001

Oct. 19, 2000


Fresh off its most successful campaign in a decade, Oregon State's greatest challenge will likely be living up to the increased expectations that come from posting its best dual meet record in 10 years. The Beavers (7-3 overall in 2000), lost only one swimmer to graduation, they return 16 letterwinners and six Pacific-10 meet scorers.

'I think the pressure is going to be a little greater, simply because we had a very successful season last year,' OSU head coach Mariusz Podkoscielny said. 'We swam well the entire season, so expectations are going to be a little higher from the swimmers, coaches, the community and athletic department.'

OSU returns five seniors, each of whom own at least two places on the school's top-10 lists. Erin Buckley (2 top-10s), Arianna Higuera (5), Melissa Hsieh (3), Amy Imwalle (4), and Kristen Severance (4) will be called upon for leadership throughout the season.

'The seniors are the foundation for the whole program,' Podkoscielny said. 'When I started here five years ago, they were the swimmers who went through the aches and pains of building the program and starting from scratch. They've done an awesome job, I can't say enough good things about them.

'Their experience in leading the team and their maturity is going to be something that will help us throughout the whole year because we've never felt the kind of pressure that we will this year. Teams are looking at us a little differently, they're going to be gearing up towards beating us more than in the past, so I think the seniors will help us keep our composure and keep the team focused on its goals.'

Thanks to the squad's strong work-ethic and off-season training, the Beavers come into the season in excellent shape. The hard work is paying dividends, according to Podkoscielny.

'Where we are now is a tribute to the swimmers doing a better job in the offseason and coming back in better shape,' Podkoscielny said. 'Plus, it gets a little more competitive every year for a spot on the team, which puts more pressure on them to be ready. We've made some adjustments in our training, so we are a little further along at this point than we were last year.'

Two sophomore swimmers in particular stand out thanks to their freshman-year performances. Naya Higashijima (7 top-10s) and Paula Finlay (6) combined to win 36 races last year. Finlay placed eighth in the 100-yard breaststroke at the Pacific-10 Championships and 13th in the 200 breaststroke, while Higashijima captured 13th in the 1,650 freestyle, 14th in the 500 freestyle, and 15th in the 200 butterfly.

'The ultimate goal for everyone that comes into our program is to make it to the NCAAs,' Podkoscielny said. 'We try to recruit athletes that have that as their goal and ultimately want to go to `The Show'. Naya and Paula really got a taste of what it was like last year by being very close to making it to the NCAAs. They've already shown a lot of improvement in practice this fall, so we're really looking forward to the season.'

'Also, the sophomores, juniors and seniors all had some of their best years last season, so that's encouraging,' Podkoscielny said.

The Beaver roster carries only one new name this year, but Birte Steven has already shown tremendous promise in early-season practices by beating school record times in the breaststroke.

'Traditionally, we've been strong in the breaststroke events, and we've gotten better with Birte Steven,' Podkoscielny said. 'Paula Finlay elevated those records pretty high last year, so to have someone already swimming faster than the records is encouraging.'

OSU's move into Steven's Natatorium provided Beaver fans with an opportunity to watch top-flight swimming and give the swimmers a homepool advantage.

'We had great support last year at our home dual meets, and I hope the fans come out and support us,' Podkoscielny said. 'Theswimmers worked tremendously hard and I know that part of the reason we had a successful year was because of the support we got, so I hope that continues. I look forward to seeing a lot of people at our meets.'

1999-2000 YEAR IN REVIEW

Winning records, both overall and in Pacific-10 duals. A new home in an on-campus pool, with supportive crowds at meets. Improving veterans mixed with an outstanding freshman class. School records set 22 times, and in nine different events.

Oregon State (7-3 overall, 2-1 Pacific-10) had its best women's swimming season in nearly a decade during 1999-2000, as the Beavers' improvement over recent years began to show in their results.

'There was a lot that contributed to it,' OSU head coach Mariusz Podkoscielny said. 'We had more maturity on the team, we've gotten better every year, having a facility on campus - that all played a role in it.'

With Podkoscielny in his fourth season, the entire Beaver roster was brought to the school by the current coach.

'We finally got a group of kids on the team that were all recruited by us,' Podkoscielny said. 'They are buying into our train of thought and what we're trying to accomplish.

'Our freshmen came through tremendously. You look at our school records, and the majority of them came from freshmen, which looks great for the future. It highlights how quickly the team adapted to having such a competitive freshman class, and how quickly they made them part of the system we have set up. The reason the freshmen were successful was how the team took them in and helped them through the transition - that was the most important thing that happened this season.'

OSU's roster last season included just one senior, Magda Modelska.

'Those swimmers coming back will get better and improve,' Podkoscielny said. 'We're looking forward to the future - it's a good situation for us. We were so close to going to the NCAA Championships in a couple of places, so the goals that some of the girls will have for next year aren't the goals we've had in the past. They'll be looking at going to the NCAAs, and that's awesome.'

Oregon State opened the season with home victories over San Jose State and Utah at Stevens Natatorium. The non-league duals marked the start of the first season in 20 years in which OSU swam all its home meets on campus.

'It was great to be back on campus, and we enjoyed every bit of it,' Podkoscielny said. 'It was a great year from the standpoint of how much support we got from the community and the fans.'

In its first big meet of the year, Oregon State placed third in the 23-team Speedo Cup Invitational in early December.

'We had a good meet,' Podkoscielny said of the Speedo Cup. 'We were able to compete and finish strong as a team. We had a lot of great individual performances and school records. That meet is usually a prognosis for the whole season, and we've kept getting better at that meet.'

The Beavers clinched at least a .500 dual meet record by defeating Puget Sound in the final home meet of the season. OSU then went to Washington State to conclude the regular season with a pair of dual meets, the Beavers needed at least one victory to earn their first winning record since 1991.

Oregon State got that win in the first meet of the weekend, then completed a sweep of the Cougars the next day to also assure the Beavers of a winning record in Pacific-10 duals.

'The first meet at Washington State was a highlight of the year,' Podkoscielny said. 'It was going to be close no matter what, and we did everything we needed to do. We made no mistakes in that meet.'

After the success of the regular season, the Beavers entered the Pacific-10 Championships with high hopes. OSU finished in ninth place, however, not quite able to overtake WSU.

'The Pac-10s brought us down to earth,' Podkoscielny said. 'We'd been flying high, emotionally. Part of it was because we were spent from the whole season. Expectations kept rising, and each meet was more and more important, and at the Pac-10 meet the girls came out flat a bit. We showed some weaknesses we have and what we need to improve and get better on.'

Freshman Naya Higashijima was one of the Beavers' top performers during the season, turning in 21 event victories during regular-season meets and setting school records 12 times in four different events (200 butterfly, 500 freestyle, 1,000 freestyle, 1,650 freestyle). Paula Finlay, another freshman, had 15 event victories and set school records five times in three events (100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke, 200 individual medley).

COACH PODKOSCIELNY ON THE SAN JOSE STATE SPARTANS: 'They're a much-improved team,' Podkoscielny said. 'We beat them pretty handily at the beginning of last season, but we would have had a great meet with them if the meet was at the end of last year because they got some swimmers in the second semester that ended up going to the NCAAs.'

'They are a very solid team, and I know they've improved this season, so it's going to be a tough meet, especially since we'll be going into the meet handicapped by at least 26 points because we don't have a diving squad. They will dive against us, so it starts 26-0 against us.'

PACIFIC-10 CHAMPIONSHIPS IN REVIEW: Oregon State finished ninth at the Pacific-10 Championships in 2000, which were held Feb. 24-26 at the Belmont Plaza Pool in Long Beach, Calif. Arizona won the team title with 1,325 points and Stanford was second with 1,197, OSU scored 291.5 points.

It was a weekend that had its highlights for the Beavers, as OSU closed to within 30.5 points of eighth-place Washington State. Paula Finlay provided the Beavers with their highest individual finish in 5 years when she placed eighth in the 100-yard breaststroke, her time of 1:04.39 seconds in the preliminaries was one of 7 school records set by OSU in the meet.

Also notching school records were Finlay in the 200 breaststroke (2:20.09, 13th place), Naya Higashijima in the 1,650 freestyle (16:55.87, 13th place), 200 butterfly (2:01.96 prelims, 15th place) and 500 freestyle twice (4:54.99, 14th place, and 4:55.40, prelims), the 400 medley relay team of Magda Modelska, Finlay, Kristin Martinec and Arianna Higuera (3:51.22, 7th place), and the 200 medley relay team of Suzanne Starkey, Finlay, Martinec and Higuera (1:46.30, 7th place).

Others scoring points for the Beavers were Higuera in the 50 freestyle (14th place) and 100 freestyle (22nd place), Kyla Bond in the 400 individual medley (17th place), Modelska in the 400 individual medley (18th place) and 100 backstroke (23rd place), Sheila Tehranchi in the 400 individual medley (22nd place), 100 breaststroke (22nd place) and 200 breaststroke (23rd place), Kristen Severance in the 200 breaststroke (20th place) and 100 breaststroke (21st place), Starkey in the 100 backstroke (22nd place).

HEAD COACH MARIUSZ PODKOSCIELNY: Mariusz Podkoscielny enters his fifth season as head coach at Oregon State. In his first four years, OSU has a dual meet record of 14-25 overall and 2-11 in the Pacific-10. Podkoscielny, 31, is a 9-time All-American and 2-time Olympian.

Prior to coming to OSU in the fall of 1996, Podkoscielny had been an assistant men's and women's coach at Arizona since 1993.

A native of Gdansk, Poland, Podkoscielny was a member of the Arizona swim team from 1988-92 was one of the fastest distance swimmers in UA history. He was also on the Polish National Team from 1980-92 and competed in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.

OREGON STATE ALL-ACADEMIC PICKS: Oregon State had 7 swimmers earn Pacific-10 Conference All-Academic honorable mention for the 1999-00 season. The Beavers who were honored were Kyla Bond, Suzanne Broda, Sarah Cohen, Melissa Hsieh, Amy Imwalle, Jill Personius and Bonnie Renwick.

STEVENS NATATORIUM: For the first time in 20 years, Oregon State scheduled all its home swim meets on campus last year as the Beavers moved into Stevens Natatorium. Oregon State will swim all four of its home meets in Stevens Natatorium agains this year. OSU had a 3-1 dual meet record in its new home last season.

Stevens Natatorium is adjacent to Dixon Recreation Center, near Gill Coliseum. The pool opened in 1994 but was not outfitted for competition until prior to this season.

OSU had scheduled its home meets at Corvallis' Osborn Aquatic Center since the community pool opened for the 1979-80 season. A few meets were still held on campus at Langton Pool.

OREGON STATE'S BEST DUAL MARK SINCE ... : Oregon State's 7-3 dual meet record last season gave the Beavers their first winning season since going 7-4 in 1991. The last time OSU won more than 7 dual meets in a season was 1983, when OSU finished 8-2. The Beavers' .700 winning percentage in dual meets was Oregon State's highest since a .750 mark while going 6-2 in 1990.

OREGON STATE'S WINNING STREAKS: Oregon State started and finished last season with a pair of 3-meet win streaks in dual meet competition. Those were the Beavers' longest winning streaks since taking 5 straight dual victories to finish the 1994 season.

OREGON STATE SCHOOL RECORDS: Last season, Oregon State set school records 22 times with those marks coming in 9 different events. OSU's school records set during the 1999-2000 season:

200 butterfly	        Naya Higashijima	2:07.44, Oct. 29 vs. SJSU200 butterfly	        Naya Higashijima	2:06.36, Nov. 11 vs. Utah1,000 freestyle	        Naya Higashijima	10:21.68, Nov. 11 vs. Utah100 breaststroke	Paula Finlay	        1:06.34, Nov. 11 vs. Utah200 individual medley	Paula Finlay	        2:05.46, Dec. 2 at Speedo Cup400 medley relay        Starkey, Renwick, Finlay, Higuera	3:52.92, Dec. 2 at Speedo Cup100 breaststroke	Paula Finlay	        1:04.40, Dec. 3 at Speedo Cup200 medley relay	Starkey, Renwick, Finlay, Higuera	1:46.99, Dec. 3 at Speedo Cup200 butterfly	        Naya Higashijima	2:05.80, Dec. 4 at Speedo Cup200 butterfly	        Naya Higashijima	2:05.11, Dec. 4 at Speedo Cup1,000 freestyle	        Naya Higashijima	10:19.63, Dec. 21 at Fla. Atlantic200 butterfly	        Naya Higashijima	2:04.50, Dec. 21 at Fla. Atlantic1,650 freestyle	        Naya Higashijima	17:09.84, Jan. 22 vs. Washington500 freestyle	        Naya Higashijima	4:59.78, Jan. 29 vs. Puget Sound500 freestyle	        Naya Higashijima	4:55.40, Feb. 24 at Pacific-10500 freestyle	        Naya Higashijima	4:54.99, Feb. 24 at Pacific-10400 medley relay	Modelska, Martinec, Finlay, Higuera	3:51.22, Feb. 24 at Pacific-10100 breaststroke	Paula Finlay	        1:04.39, Feb. 25 at Pacific-10200 medley relay	Starkey, Finlay, Martinec, Higuera	1:46.30, Feb. 25 at Pacific-101,650 freestyle	        Naya Higashijima	16:55.87, Feb. 26 at Pacific-10200 breaststroke	Paula Finlay	2:20.09, Feb. 26 at Pacific-10200 butterfly	        Naya Higashijima	2:01.96, Feb. 26 at Pacific-10

OREGON STATE EVENT WINNERS: In the 1999-2000dual meet season, freshman Naya Higashijima led the Beavers in event victories. The final regular season standings:(Wins while swimming as an exhibtion entry are inparentheses, those wins are not included in total)

1. Naya Higashijima	(2) 212. Paula Finlay	        (1) 153. Magda Modelska	(3) 74. Arianna Higuera	(1) 75. Sheila Tehranchi	    26. Kyla Bond	            1(tie) Amy Imwalle	    1(tie) Jill McMinn	    19. Bonnie Renwick	(1) 0

BEAVERS' PLACES ON SCHOOL TOP-10 LISTS: At the season's conclusion, swimmers on the 1999-2000 Oregon State team held 64 of the 140 places on the school's lists of the top 10 performers in each event. In fact, members of this season's Beaver squad held at least 3 spots in each event and 19 current OSU swimmers held at least 1 spot.

Here are the members of the 1999-2000 Beavers with the most entries on the school's all-time leader lists at the end of the season:

1. Naya Higashijima	72. Paula Finlay	        63. Arianna Higuera	54. Sarah Cohen	        4(tie) Amy Imwalle	4(tie) Bonnie Renwick	4(tie) Kristen Severance	4(tie) Erica Stephens	4

WHERE THE BEAVERS RANK ON SCHOOL LISTS: Here are OSU's school records and where members of the 1999-2000 Beavers (listed in bold type) rank on the school's top-10 lists through the end of the season:

50 FREESTYLE1. Amy van Loben Sels	23.11	19944. Arianna Higuera	23.99	20005. J.J. Townsend	24.11	19956. Bonnie Renwick	24.42	19999. Erin Buckley	        24.57	1998100 FREESTYLE1. Amy van Loben Sels	50.64	19955. Arianna Higuera	52.31	19997. Bonnie Renwick	53.19	20009. Trista Hedlind	53.25	2000200 FREESTYLE1. Traci Lamoure	1:50.91	19983. Naya Higashijima	1:52.89	20004. Melissa Hsieh	1:54.28	19985. Arianna Higuera	1:54.57	20007. Paula Finlay 	1:54.99	20008. Amy Imwalle  	1:55.12	19999. Erin Buckley	        1:55.19	199810. Trista Hedlind	1:55.52	2000500 FREESTYLE1. Naya Higashijima	4:54.99	20006. Amy Imwalle	        5:06.95	19999. Jill Personius	5:10.63	20001,000 FREESTYLE1. Naya Higashijima	10:19.63        20004. Jill McMinn	        10:38.50	20005. Amy Imwalle	        10:43.96	19996. Dana Stoddard	10:44.56	19991,650 FREESTYLE1. Naya Higashijima	16:55.87	20004. Amy Imwalle	        17:28.21	19995. Dana Stoddard	17:35.08	19997. Jill McMinn	        17:51.30	2000100 BACKSTROKE1. Tori Eisenbeis	57.23	19953. Erica Stephens	57.74	19985. Magda Modelska	58.41	20006. Suzanne Starkey	58.56	2000200 BACKSTROKE1. Christy Ryerson	2:03.41	19943. Erica Stephens	2:04.60	19985. Magda Modelska	2:07.91	20006. Paula Finlay	        2:08.25	20007. Suzanne Starkey	2:08.73	20008. Kyla Bond	        2:09.38	1999100 BUTTERFLY1. Kristin Martinec	57.20	19992. Naya Higashijima	57.88	20003. Melissa Hsieh	58.03	19984. Bonnie Renwick	58.12	19999. Arianna Higuera	59.31	1999200 BUTTERFLY1. Naya Higashijima	2:01.96	20003. Melissa Hsieh	2:07.67	19985. Kristin Martinec	2:09.34	199910. Jill McMinn	        2:11.28	2000100 BREASTSTROKE1. Paula Finlay	        1:04.39	20002. Kristen Severance	1:06.45	20006. Sheila Tehranchi	1:07.35	19998. Sarah Cohen	        1:07.81	1999200 BREASTSTROKE1. Tammy Scott	        2:20.77	19912. Paula Finlay	        2:21.23	20003. Sarah Cohen	        2:21.70	19994. Kristen Severance	2:22.78	20006. Sheila Tehranchi	2:23.93	2000200 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY1. Paula Finlay	        2:05.46	20003. Arianna Higuera	2:08.10	19994. Erica Stephens	2:08.32	19985. Kyla Bond	        2:09.40	19996. Sarah Cohen	        2:10.96	19997. Kristen Severance	2:10.97	19998. Bonnie Renwick	2:11.20	2000400 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY1. Erica Stephens	4:28.16	19982. Kyla Bond	        4:30.35	19993. Sarah Cohen	        4:34.82	19994. Magda Modelska	4:34.99	20005. Paula Finlay	        4:35.01	20007. Naya Higashijima	4:35.85	20009. Sheila Tehranchi	4:41.33	199910. Kristen Severance	4:41.52	1998

BEAVER SPORTS INFORMATION: Oregon State women's swimming sports information director Kip Carlson can be reached at (541) 737-7472. OSU women's swimming information is also on the athletic department website at www.osubeavers.com

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