2001-02 Cal Women's Swimming Outlook
Nov. 20, 2001
BERKELEY, CA - When a team features the NCAA Swimmer of the Year, a pair of Olympic gold medallists and eight returning All-Americans, the prospect for success is good. Such is the case for the 2001-02 California women's swimming team as it embarks on another season striving for a top NCAA finish.
There is little doubt the Bears will be led by sophomore Natalie Coughlin, who as a true freshman dominated collegiate swimming. In one of the best individual performances in NCAA history, Coughlin not only won the 100 fly and the 100 and 200 backstroke at the NCAA Championships, she broke NCAA records in all three events. Coughlin helped the Bears to three NCAA runner-up finishes in the relays as well, swimming the butterfly legs of the Bears 200 and 400 medley relays, and the second leg of Cal's 200 free relay. She was also named Pac-10 Swimmer of the Year, winning all 15 conference dual meet races she competed in.
'Natalie will again swim a lot of different events for us. It will be a case of how she can help the team the most,' said head coach Teri McKeever, who has now coached the past three Pac-10 Swimmers of the Year and has helped produced the school's first NCAA Women's Swimmer of the Year. 'Natalie is a superstar, but she is very much a team player. She gives us so much flexibility. It allows the team to be versatile.'
The Bears also have two more valuable swimmers who had experienced success at the highest level, juniors Staciana Stitts and Ashley Whitney. Stitts is the school record holder in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke, and swam the breaststroke on Cal's school record-setting 200 and 400 medley relays. She earned a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics as a member of the United States' 400-meter medley relay, swimming in the morning prelims. Stitts also represented the United States this past summer at the Goodwill Games in Brisbane, Australia, along with coach McKeever. It was the second Goodwill Games appearance for Stitts.
Whitney was a member of the 1996 USA Olympic team while she was still in high school and went on to earn a gold medal as a member of the United States' 800-meter free relay, swimming in the morning prelims. Whitney is a transfer who competed for national champion Georgia in 1999, earning All-America honors in the 800 free relay and the 1,650 free.
The Bears return five other All-Americans as well - senior Alice Henriques, junior Michelle Harper and sophomores Danielle Becks, Natalie Griffith and Kyoko Yokouchi. Henriques has been a solid contributor in the backstroke and the butterfly events, owning the school's sixth-best all-time mark in the 200 back. Harper and Becks have developed into top notched freestylers, with both being members of school record-setting and national runner-up freestyle and medley relays. Harper also has the school's fifth-best all-time mark in the 50 free and Becks was a finalist in the 100 and 200 free at this past U.S. Summer Nationals. Griffith was a member of Cal's 800 free relay at the 2001 NCAA Championships and Yokouchi had a solid NCAA meet, finishing the year with times in the 400 IM, 200 back and 200 IM that were in the Bears all-time Top 10 list.
McKeever brings in a class of 10 freshmen - Keiko Amano, Erin Calder, Christine Galbavy, Lauren Medina, Marcelle Miller, Leah Monroe, Lisa Morelli, Amy Ng, Emma Palsson and Jenna Rais - who will all be vying for spots on relays and individual events. Cal also will have sophomores Shauna Barnard, Katherine McAdoo and Katherine Mitchell, plus junior transfers Micha Burden and Jennifer Klemme, who will provide depth.
'We have a number of people who are solid in a variety of strokes and distances,' said McKeever. 'Our freshmen are a group with a lot of potential. They are looking forward to competing in a top program and their roles will definitely develop as the year goes on.'