October 13, 1998
PULLMAN, Wash. - The Washington State women's swim team heads into untested waters as it gathers first-time meetings versus nationally ranked collegiate swimming powerhouses Oct. 16-17.
The Cougars travel to Atlanta, Ga. to compete in a dual meet versus Georgia Southern and Louisville at the Georgia Tech Aquatics Center, site of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. The following day, WSU will square off against Alabama and NE Louisiana at Tuscaloosa, Ala.
"We match up well against the southern state schools and should do well against them," WSU coach Rocco Aceto said. "I am especially interested in Louisville, since they are ranked fourth in the country with grade-point average. We are ranked 10th, so it is going to be a meeting of the minds. We certainly want to beat them in the pool and beat them in the classroom - that is a huge challenge."
Aceto heads into his second year and is no stranger to SEC competition. Before his appointment at WSU, Aceto served as an assistant coach at Auburn University, where he coached 32 All-Americans and several Olympic gold medallists. The Cougars look forward to competing against swimming powerhouse Alabama, with its long standing history of producing Olympic and world class swimmers.
"If we can get in there and beat a team that has been perennially ranked in the Top 20 and Top 25 in the country, it would say a lot for our program," assistant coach Alicia Hicken said. "Now we are far ahead of where we were this time last year. We look forward to a lot of breakthroughs this season."
Last season, Aceto lead the Cougars to 12 school record-breaking performances, academic national recognition by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA), No. 1 grade-point average in the Pac-10 conference, and produced Washington State's first ever NCAA championship qualifier in junior Erin Eldridge.
With these numerous accomplishments, Aceto and the swimming program have become more visible, not only in the conference, but on a national scale. WSU finished the 1997-98 season at 5-2, one of the Cougars' best seasons in its 21-year history.
Heading into the 1998-99 season, the Cougars can look to several top performers in the pool. This summer, Eldridge
(Kirkland, Wash.) and senior Katie Keller (Seattle, Wash.) competed at Senior Nationals which served as a qualifier for the Pan-American Games, Pan-Pacific Games, World University Games, Goodwill Games, and Olympic Games trials. Eldridge qualified for Olympic Trials and is expected to return to the postseason in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke events. Keller currently holds the most school records with six and leads the team in freestyle events.
Senior Anna Hohmann (Victoria, Australia) leads the Cougars in the backstroke, while junior Gretchen Chambers holds the distance events. Junior Kelley Miedema (Cape Town, South Africa) returns as the team's most versatile swimmer with a focus on IM events. Hohmann and Miedema hold school records in their specialties as well.
Other contributors include seniors Jessica Chisholm and Julie Thom. Chisholm (Concord, Calif.) will back up the breaststroke events and Thom (Portland, Ore.) the distance.
"I expect a lot out of this team this year," Aceto said. "It is the first time a group of athletes in WSU swimming has trained all spring and during the summer. Because of that, we are already a much better team this year than we were last year."
The Cougars' goal this season is to finish better than eighth place at the Pac-10 Championships and score the most points ever in the program's history. However, the ultimate goal is to place in the Top 8 individually at Pac-10's and send more participants to the NCAA Championship for team scoring, which would mark another Washington State milestone.
"I will have one of the best prepared teams at Pac-10's and NCAA's," Aceto said. "That is where our focus every single day is."
Although, the Cougars are stepping into new waters with this weekend's match ups, there is an added advantage to the trip.
"It is nice to have them go down and see different parts of the country and swim against people they have never competed against before," Hicken said. "It shows people around the country that we are up and coming."
SWIMMING NOTES...WSU coach Rocco Aceto will be on the Tuesday press conference call at 1:50 p.m....Looking Ahead...The Cougars host three home meets this season against ACC powerhouse Florida State, San Jose State guided by former Olympian Pablo Morales, and rival Washington on the eve of Apple Cup.