Beavers Begin Liebowitz Era In Swimming
Oct. 7, 2003
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10
Oregon State, UCLA at California-Santa Barbara;Santa Barbara, Calif.; 1 p.m.
As he begins his first collegiate head coaching job, Larry Liebowitz is looking at taking a record-setting Oregon State women's swimming team to even more successes in the 2003-04 season. Liebowitz begins guiding OSU after spending eight seasons as the top assistant at Southern California, one of the nation's most prominent programs.
The Beavers open Liebowitz's first season Friday against UCLA and California-Santa Barbara at UCSB.
Liebowitz sees the Beavers as having enough talent to possibly improve on last season's top-25 finish at the NCAA Championships.
'We had four or five provisional (NCAA qualifying) times last season,' Liebowitz said. 'My hope is that we improve on those times enough to send those girls to the NCAAs, and therefore have the largest team there in recent years.'
Oregon State returns 13 letterwinners from 2003, when the Beavers tied a school record with 12 dual meet wins, broke the 500-point mark at the Pacific-10 Championships, set school records 28 times in 13 different events and earned their first-ever votes in the national coaches poll.
Topping the list of returners is Birte Steven. The lone senior on the roster is a five-time All-American, including last season's sixth-place finish in the 200-yard breaststroke and 11th-place finish in the 100 breaststroke.
Also back are eight other swimmers who scored at the Pac-10 meet - juniors Mari Embertson and Kristin Huston and sophomores Christina Kinney, Kristi Kuhlmey, Monika Miroslaw, Ausra Pacebutaite, Leah Schaab and Ashleigh Thomas. Other returning letterwinners are juniors Jessie Hong and Anna Zucker and sophomores Lynsey Foree and Danielle Kinney.
'The offseason held tremendous impact for the upcoming season,' Liebowitz said. 'More girls than usual trained very hard over the summer, including Birte Steven's bout with the German national team. I believe their preparation will serve them well this year.'
Steven qualified for last summer's World University Games as a member of the German national team, competing in the 100- and 200-meter breaststrokes after placing fourth and third in the German Championships, respectively. Her time in the 200 breaststroke (2 minutes, 28.48 seconds) was the eighth-best mark in the world for the year.
At the 2003 NCAA meet, Steven's sixth-place finish in the 200 breaststroke was OSU's highest-ever at nationals. She's earned All-America honors three times in the 200 breaststroke and twice in the 100 breaststroke.
Steven received a berth on the Pacific-10 All-Academic first team for the second year in a row, as well as finding a spot on the Verizon Women's Academic All-District VIII at-large second team.
She was also honored as the OSU Female Athlete of the Year for 2002-03 season at the athletic department's year-end Benny Awards ceremony.
With all-around solidarity, the Beavers are looking to improve that with the team leaders setting the standard and the younger swimmers following suit.
'The breaststrokes are our strongest events with Birte (Steven) and Mari (Embertson) both being excellent at them,' Liebowitz said. 'We are strong in all the 200(-yard) stroke events, so we have to work more on our 100s. We have a good sprinter for the 50/100 freestyle in Kristin Huston and we are good in the 1,650 behind Danielle (Kinney) and freshman Sandy Hong.'
Liebowitz also believes that if the coaching staff can inspire the Beavers, then their dreams of success are infinitely possible and that will be the greatest contribution toward their overall success.
'We're all getting used to a new situation,' Liebowitz said. 'We all have to work on getting to know each other and getting comfortable so we can all improve what we do.'
HEAD COACH LARRY LIEBOWITZ: Liebowitz, who has extensive international and club coaching experience, spent the last 8 seasons as assistant head coach for the women's and men's programs at Southern California. This season is his first as a collegiate head coach.
Last season, Liebowitz helped guide the USC women to third-place finishes in the NCAA Championships and the Pacific-10 Championships. The Trojan men's team was third in the Pac-10 and fifth at the NCAAs.
Liebowitz, 53, served as an assistant coach for the U.S. men's team at the 1999 Pan American Games and was also an assistant coach at the 1997 World University Games. He was coach of the United States men's team in the 1995 Pan Am Games and coach of the 1988 Costa Rica Olympic team.
SENIOR ALL-AMERICAN Birte Steven: Birte Steven earned two All-America honors at the NCAAs for the second consecutive year in 2002-03, placing sixth in the 200 breaststroke and 11th in the 100 breaststroke. Steven's sixth-place finish was the best-ever for an OSU swimmer at the NCAAs.
In 2002, Steven became the first-ever OSU swimmer to earn All-America honors twice in the same meet with her 16th-place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke and her 11th-place finish in the 200 breaststroke at the 2002 NCAAs. Add her 16th-place finish at the 2001 NCAAs in the 200 breastroke, Steven is OSU's first-ever 5-time women's swimming All-American.
Steven has 74 first-place finishes in dual meet and invitational competition in her career at OSU, including 27 wins last season. As a freshman, Steven shared team-high honors in individual event victories with Naya Higashijima at 24 scoring wins. In her sophomore season, Steven placed first in 23 races.
This past May, Steven qualified for the University World Games as a member of the German National Team. Steven competed in the 100- and 200-meter breaststrokes at the Games, and her time in the 200 breaststroke was the eight-best in the world this year.
Steven was honored as the OSU Female Athlete of the Year for 2002-03 sschool year at the OSU athletic department's annual Benny Awards in June.
STEVENS NATATORIUM: Oregon State swims its home meets at Stevens Natatorium on the OSU campus. The Beavers went 4-0 at home in dual meets last season; it was the first time they had gone unbeaten for a season at Stevens Natatorium. OSU has an all-time record of 12-4 in the pool and OSU is 7-1 at home the past 2 seasons.
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.
BEAVERS' PLACES ON SCHOOL TOP-10 LISTS: Members of OSU's 2003-2004 squad enter the season holding 42 of the 140 places on the list of the school's top 10 performers in each individual event. Current Beaver swimmers with entries on the OSU all-time leaders list as the season begins:
1. Birte Steven 72. Mari Embertson 4(tie) Kristin Huston 4(tie) Christina Kinney 4(tie) Danielle Kinney 4(tie). Kristi Kuhlmey 4(tie) Monika Miroslaw 43. Jessie Hong 3(tie) Ausra Pacebutaite 34. Leah Schaab 2(tie). Ashleigh Thomas 215. Jillian McMinn 1
WHERE THE BEAVERS RANK ON SCHOOL LISTS: Here are OSU's school records and where members of the 2003-2004 Beavers (listed in bold type) rank on the school's individual top-10 list at the start of the season:
50 FREESTYLE1. Amy van Loben Sels 23.11 19942. Kristin Huston 23.40 20038. Ausra Pacebutaite 24.17 2003
100 FREESTYLE1. Amy van Loben Sels 50.64 19952. Kristin Huston 50.98 2002
400 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY1. Naya Higashijima 4:18.98 20022. Mari Embertson 4:20.11 20023. Birte Steven 4:21.54 20024. Monika Miroslaw 4:21.55 20035. Leah Schaab 4:25.70 20037. Paula Finlay 4:28.30 20018. Jessie Hong 4:28.31 20029. Christina Kinney 4:30.19 2003