Husky Women Ready For NCAA Championships
March 18, 2008
COLUMBUS, Ohio - A school-record eight University of Washington swimmers are set to compete this week at the NCAA Women's Championships at McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion on the campus of Ohio State University.
The Huskies, led by freshman sensation Ariana Kukors, are seeking their best finish in school history. Washington's top finish at the national championships came during their first season as a program, a 16th-place showing in 1976. The Huskies took 35th last year behind the efforts of Kim Jasmer, and head coach Whitney Hite believes his team has the capability to finish in the top 12 this year.
'I think if we can come away with being in the top twelve then we've done an absolutely outstanding job,' said Hite, who is in his second year at the UW. 'This team has had a goal of that all season long. Whether we do or we don't, we've still had a very successful season.'
Kukors, who trains locally with the King Aquatic Club and coach Sean Hutchison, enters the meet as the No. 1 seed in the 400 individual medley with a time of 4:04.68, which is more than a full second faster than the No. 2 seed, Ava Ohlgren of Auburn (4:05.78).
Should Kukors win the national title, she would become the first UW female swimmer to accomplish the feat. She is also seeded in the top five of the 200 individual medley and the 200 breaststroke.
'Ari is the superstar,' said Hite. 'We certainly know she's a great racer and a great competitor. It's a great opportunity for her to race the best.'
An interesting twist to the meet for Kukors is that she will be swimming against her older sister, Emily, in the 200 individual medley. Emily, who is a senior at Auburn, is seeded No. 2 in the event with a time of 1:55.14, while Ariana is seeded No. 3 with a time of 1:55.48.
In the 200 breaststroke, Kukors is the No. 5 seed with a time of 2:10.87. Teammate Genevieve Patterson will also compete for the Huskies in the event.
While the Huskies know they will receive major points from their freshman superstar, Hite says that Kukors is not just a one-person team.
'There is a little bit of a perception out there that this is Ariana's team. That it's her and everyone else. I think after this weekend people will realize it's not just her. It's going to be a team contribution.'
Jasmer, a junior who is making her second appearance at the national championships, single-handedly led the UW to a 35th-place finish last year after taking 11th in the 500 freestyle and 14th in the 1650 freestyle, earning All-America honors in both events.
'Kim has an opportunity to be really good for us and score a lot of points,' said Hite. 'She has done real well for us this year and I expect her to continue to perform on a high level.'
Jasmer is seeded seventh in the 500 freestyle (4:41.51), 11th in the 200 freestyle (1:45.74) and 25th in the 1650 freestyle (16:21.93).
Sophomore Erin Campbell also figures to play a part in the Huskies success, as she is seeded 16th in the 100 butterfly with a time of 53.15 and 20th in the 200 backstroke with a time of 1:56.37. She will also swim the 200 individual medley.
Patterson is the only other Husky to earn a top 20 seed, as she is seeding 16th in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:01.33. She will also compete in the 200 breaststroke.
The Huskies also have all five of their relay teams that will compete. Both the 200 medley relay and the 800 freestyle relay squads are seeded No. 9, while the 400 freestyle relay team is seeded No. 12. Also, the 400 medley relay team is the No. 15 seed and the 200 freestyle relay team in the No. 19 seed. All five relay teams set school records this season.
Auburn, which has won the past two national championships and five of the past six, is the favorite again. Hite believes that Arizona, though, could also compete for the top spot.