Beavers Aim To Continue Progress In Pac-10, NCAA Circles

Oct. 16, 2001


Oregon State, UCLA at California-Santa Barbara, 1 p.m.

In 2000, Oregon State recorded its first winning dual meet season in nine years.

In 2001, the Beavers added another winning season (7-5 overall, 0-3 Pacific-10), and Birte Steven went on to earn All-America honors at the NCAA Championships.

Now, in 2002, what's the next step?

'I think our goals haven't changed,' said Mariusz Podkoscielny, who enters his sixth season as OSU's head coach when the Beavers meet UCLA and California-Santa Barbara at UCSB on Friday. 'We still want to move up from ninth place in the conference. That's been something hanging over our head for many years now, with the current balance in the conference, we keep improving every single year but so do the other teams. That's what makes it harder, but we've put together a pretty nice team to make a run at it this year.

'Another goal is to have more than one person go to the NCAAs. We had Birte qualify and make All-America last year, which was a great accomplishment for our program, but now we'd like to take two or three to NCAAs and, hopefully, down the road we'll start working toward the relays.'

The Beavers return 10 letterwinners - including five who scored at the Pacific-10 Championships - for their bid at moving up the Pac-10 ladder. Steven, a sophomore, and juniors Naya Higashijima and Paula Finlay hold eight of OSU's 14 school records in individual events.

Steven earned All-America honors by placing 16th in the 200-yard breaststroke at the NCAAs as a freshman, she also finished 17th in the 100 breast. She set school records nine times in three events (100 breast, 200 breast, 400 individual medley), won 24 individual events during the regular season and was named OSU's Female Newcomer of the Year at the athletic department's annual Benny Awards.

Higashijima placed 10th in the Pac-10 in the 1,650 freestyle last season and also won 24 individual events during the regular season. She set school records five times in three events (1,000 free, 1,650 free, 200 butterfly) and also holds another OSU mark (1,000 free).

Finlay won 13 times during the 2001 regular season and holds a school record (200 IM). As a freshman, she placed eighth in the Pac-10 in the 100 breast.

'And I think Suzanne Starkey (sprint free, fly, backstroke) is going to be a major factor this year for us, as well,' Podkoscielny said of another junior. 'I think all four of them should be scoring for us in the top 16 at Pac-10s, we've only had a couple of swimmers at each (Pac-10) meet qualify for the top 16. To make people understand what that is, if you score in the top 16 in the Pac-10s, you're most likely going to be getting close to NCAA cuts. And when you make it to the NCAAs, it's pretty much the best in the world - there's no way around it.'

Podkoscielny also sees senior Bonnie Renwick (sprint free, fly) as capable of breaking into the top 16 at the Pac-10 meet. The Beavers will also rely on eight freshmen, including Kristin Huston (sprint free, fly).

'One, she's a very talented swimmer, but two, she's also coming into events where we have the biggest gap, where we lost a lot of swimmers last year,' Podkoscielny said of Huston. 'She's going to get an immediate opportunity to step up and be on the relays and in individual events and really do a good job for us.

'We're going to have to wait and see. All the freshmen are training tremendously well. They all made a very good transition from club to here, now we just have to make sure that it carries over to meets.'

The Beavers will be looking for increased intensity all the way through the roster.

'What we're trying to do is make them understand that to get to the next level, in order for us to start breaking into the top 25 at the NCAAs, we need to have that kind of attitude and that kind of philosophy on the pool deck,' Podkoscielny said. 'Our expectations for this team are definitely the highest they've ever been for any of our teams at Oregon State.'

ALL-TIME VS. THIS WEEK'S OPPONENTS: Oregon State has never swum dual meets against UCLA or California-Santa Barbara.

2000-01 IN REVIEW: When the 2000-2001 swimming season began at Oregon State, the team had hopes of advancing to the NCAA Championships some six months away. There were hopes of an OSU swimmer becoming an All-America for the second time in school history, and there were hopes of elevating the program to among the nation's elite.

When Birte Steven touched the timing pad on the final lap of her 200-yard breaststroke at the NCAA Championships in Long Island's Nassau County Aquatic Center, she put the finishing touches on those hopes, which had turned into reality.

Steven joined former OSU standout Amy van Loben Sels as the second swimmer in school history to earn All-America acclaim when she finished 16th in the 200-yard breaststroke in a time of 2:15.46.

The freshman was literally a fingertip away from earning All-America honors in the 100 breaststroke as well, as she finished .01 seconds after the 16th-place finisher.

The season saw the Beavers break school records 19 times and post their second consecutive seven-win dual meet season.

'It definitely puts us in an elite group,' OSU coach Mariusz Podkoscielny said of OSU swimming at the NCAAs. 'There are only about 48 teams that qualify each year for nationals, which is less than 20 percent of NCAA Division I teams, so it's a pretty elite group. It definitely affects our recruiting, especially against the Northwest schools.

'We finished higher than any of them (Northwest rivals Washington and Washington State) at NCAAs, not that's it's going to make a huge difference, but it's definitely knocking away some of the tools from other schools that were able to say 'Oregon State doesn't even have anyone going to NCAAs'. Now we've made it to the NCAAs and performed well there. It's a step in the right direction.'

OSU finished ninth at the Pac-10 Championships this year, but in the toughest conference in the nation, even ninth place is nothing to shake your head at given the fact that five of the nation's top 10 teams reside on the Pac-10 Conference. Over the last four or five years, Oregon State, Washington, and Washington State have made great strides to close the gap from top-to-bottom in the conference.

OSU had five seniors, as Melissa Hsieh, Amy Imwalle, Arianna Higuera, Erin Buckley and Kristen Severance all completed their eligibility.

'This was the last year for five of our seniors, and they did a great job for us,' Podkoscielny said. 'They were the foundation of this team, but we're also excited about what's going to happen down the road.'

HEAD COACH MARIUSZ PODKOSCIELNY: Mariusz Podkoscielny is in his sixth season as head coach at Oregon State. Since taking over the Beaver program at the start of the 1996-97 season, Podkoscielny's teams have a dual meet record of 21-30 overall and 2-14 in the Pacific-10.

Podkoscielny, 33, is a nine-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 and 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.

STEVENS NATATORIUM: Oregon State swims its home meets at Stevens Natatorium on the OSU campus. The Beavers have an all-time record of 5-3 in the pool.

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 the 1999-2000 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 SCHOOL RECORDS: Members of Oregon State's 2001-02 squad hold 10 of the 14 individual event school records going into the season. A look at the OSU marks held by current Beavers:

500 FREESTYLE: Naya Higashijima, 4:54.99,2000 Pacific-10 Championships at Long Beach, Calif.     1,000 FREESTYLE: Naya Higashijima, 10:14.32,2001 Pacific-10 Championships at Federal Way, Wash.     1,650 FREESTYLE: Naya Higashijima, 16:54.91,2001 Pacific-10 Championships at Federal Way, Wash.     100 BUTTERFLY: Bonnie Renwick, 57.04,2000-01 Speedo Cup at Long Beach, Calif.     200 BUTTERFLY: Naya Higashijima, 2:01.43,2000-01 Speedo Cup at Long Beach, Calif.     100 BACKSTROKE: Suzanne Starkey, 57.15,2000-01 Speedo Cup at Long Beach, Calif.     100 BREASTSTROKE: Birte Steven, 1:02.24,2001 Pacific-10 Championships at Federal Way, Wash.     200 BREASTSTROKE: Birte Steven, 2:14.43,2000-01 Speedo Cup at Long Beach, Calif.     200 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY: Paula Finlay, 2:05.46,1999-2000 Speedo Cup at Long Beach, Calif.     400 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY: Birte Steven, 4:27.99,2000-01 Speedo Cup at Long Beach, Calif.

OREGON STATE EVENT WINNERS: In the 2000-01 dual meet season, Birte Steven and Naya Higashijima led the Beavers with 24 wins. A look at last season's individual event wins by members of the 2001-02 OSU squad:

(Wins while swimming as an exhibtion entry are inparentheses, those wins are not included in total)1. Birte Steven	        (1) 24(tie) Naya Higashijima	(2) 243. Paula Finlay	            134. Suzanne Starkey	     55. Bonnie Renwick	(1)  26. Jill McMinn	             1

BEAVERS' PLACES ON SCHOOL TOP-10 LISTS: Current OSU squad members hold a large number of the places on the Beavers' list of the top 10 performers in each individual event. Members of the 2001-02 squad with the most entries on the OSU all-time leaders list:

1. Naya Higashijima 	72. Paula Finlay	        63. Bonnie Renwick	5(tie) Suzanne Starkey	5(tie) Birte Steven	5

WHERE THE BEAVERS RANK ON SCHOOL LISTS: Here are OSU's school records and where members of the 2001-2002 Beavers (listed in bold type) rank on the school's top-10 lists through the end of the 2001 season:

50 FREESTYLE1. Amy van Loben Sels	23.11	19946. Suzanne Starkey	24.32	20017. Bonnie Renwick	24.36	2001100 FREESTYLE1. Amy van Loben Sels	50.64	19956. Suzanne Starkey	52.56	20018. Bonnie Renwick	53.19	2000200 FREESTYLE1. Traci Lamoure	1:50.91	19983. Naya Higashijima	1:52.89	20007. Paula Finlay	        1:54.99	2000500 FREESTYLE1. Naya Higashijima	4:54.99	20005. Birte Steven	        5:05.31	200110. Jill Personius	5:10.63	20001,000 FREESTYLE1. Naya Higashijima	10:14.32 20014. Jill McMinn	        10:38.50 20006. Dana Stoddard	10:44.56 19991,650 FREESTYLE1. Naya Higashijima	16:54.91 20015. Dana Stoddard	17:35.08 19997. Jill Personius	17:45.61 20018. Jill McMinn	        17:51.30 2000100 BACKSTROKE1. Suzanne Starkey	57.15	20017. Bonnie Renwick	59.44	2001200 BACKSTROKE1. Christy Ryerson	2:03.41	19944. Paula Finlay	        2:05.45	20015. Suzanne Starkey	2:05.93	2001100 BUTTERFLY1. Bonnie Renwick	57.04	20012. Naya Higashijima	57.17	20013. Kristin Martinec	57.20	19994. Suzanne Starkey	58.00	2001200 BUTTERFLY1. Naya Higashijima	2:01.43	20015. Kristin Martinec	2:09.34	199910. Jill McMinn	        2:11.28	2000100 BREASTSTROKE1. Birte Steven	        1:02.24	20012. Paula Finlay	        1:04.39	20004. Sheila Tehranchi	1:06.26	2001200 BREASTSTROKE1. Birte Steven	        2:14.43	20013. Sheila Tehranchi	2:21.17	20014. Paula Finlay	        2:21.23	2000200 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY1. Paula Finlay	        2:05.46	20002. Birte Steven	        2:05.84	20019. Bonnie Renwick	2:11.20	2000400 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY1. Birte Steven	        4:27.99	20013. Paula Finlay	        4:28.30	20018. Naya Higashijima	4:35.85	200010. Sheila Tehranchi	4:41.33	1999
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