The second of my five-part Swimming and Diving preview flips over to the Women and breaststroke, backstroke, and individual medleys. UB opens the season next Friday at the Florida Gulf Coast Invitational.
This is not a very deep group, and while we can plan on a degree of improvement, that there's no newcomers at breaststroke probably means it will again be UB's weakest stroke in 2015-16.
Cristina Czyrka is the headliner here, UB's clear best at 200 (9th at the 2015 MAC Championships). Sharne Tiller's best times are listed, but last year she was four or five seconds slower than both after joining the Bulls midseason. Holly Olsen also placed (15th) at MAC Championships in the 200, and Alexis Valedon, while versatile across several strokes, swam the breaststroke leg of UB's medleys last year.
None of UB's breaststrokers cracked the points in the 100 at the MAC Championships.
Returners first, newcomers down below. Backstroke was another underwhelming group in 2014-15, with a pretty strong split between the distances. Gloria Melofchik was the fastest in the 100 and swam the backstroke leg of UB's medley relays, but did not earn points at the MAC Championships.
Claudia Casale missed points at the Championships by just .15 seconds in the 200. Alexis Valedon swims in a few different events, but has something to offer in backstroke.
The women only graduated three last year and lost no transfers. Emily Nelson is the only departed backstroker, and did not factor at all at the MAC Championships last years.
The freshmen are where the fun is at. It's obvious that Julia Box is a step above everyone else, and that Mallory Buha - a high school All-American in the 100 - is a step above her. In fact, Buha's personal best in the 100 is already below the UB record. Both will be huge as freshman.
Box is super versatile and will see time in freestyle and butterfly (and IM?) events, while Buha is a backstroke specialist who's already at 7th in the MAC and the NCAA B Cut at 100 and 10th in the MAC (by 2015 Championship results) in the 200. Maddie Jacumski is another backstroke specialist who will improve UB's depth.
UB is much stronger in the 400 IM than the 200, and not solely because of Brittney Walters, the heir to Spencer Rodriguez and fourth-place finisher in the event at last year's MAC Championships. Victoria Butler and Claudia Casale each also earned points at the Championships, and Sharne Tiller missed them by .70 seconds. Things aren't as good in the 200, where Alexis Valedon and Butler will have to improve by quite a bit to earn points at the MAC Championships.
Emily Nelson also swam some medleys, but the real, massive loss in this group is Spencer Rodriguez, who was the 2014 MAC Champion in both the 200 and 400 IMs.
No one among the freshmen has a time listed here, but given Julia Box's immediate status as one of UB's best at free, fly, and backstroke, I have to think we see her here at some point.
This is the second of a five-part preview leading up to Swimming and Diving's season opener in Florida next Friday. Prior and upcoming previews:
Men's butterfly and freestyle - 25 September
Women's butterfly and freestyle - 29 September
Men's breaststroke, backstroke, and IM - 30 September
Men's and Women's diving - 1 October