Men's Swimming & Diving Season Preview
BATON ROUGE -- The LSU Swimming and Diving Team will hold the program's annual Purple and Gold Intrasquad meet on Sept. 28 at 3 p.m. at the LSU Natatorium.
Fans are encouraged to attend the meet. All admission to LSU Swimming and Diving home meets is free of charge.
The LSU men's program finished in the top-five at the SEC Championships for the second consecutive season. The team scored over 150 points more than the season before and returns a talented core.
The squad returns NCAA Honorable-Mention All-Americans in senior distance swimmer Craig Hamilton and junior diver Daniel Helm. The team also returns SEC Bronze Medalists senior Andrei Tuomola and sophomore Frank Greeff. Four freshman swimmers will add to the depth of the team.
Hamilton holds LSU's all-time records in the 500 freestyle (4:19.12), 1000 free (8:57.90) and the 1650 free (14:45.14). He finished third in the mile at SEC's and 10th in the mile at NCAA's. He established himself as one of the nation's top distance swimmers by dropping his mile time by over 15 seconds in the month between the SEC Championships to the NCAA Championships.
"I am excited for his senior year. Every time he competes he gets faster," Geyer said. "We have some lofty goals this year. He was about a second and a half off in the mile from being top-eight last year at NCAA's. That is the positive. We weren't too far off from being there already. We were right there last year. If he was in a different lane at NCAA's, next to the guy who finished ninth, he might have been eighth overall with that push. They were in opposite sides of the pool in that race. It is certainly there."
Tuomola is a dual-competitor in the 100 breaststroke and in the sprint free events. He took bronze in the 100 breast (53.82) with the program's third fastest all-time mark at the SEC Championships.
"Andrei is always getting faster and has been a little bit short of qualifying for NCAA's," Geyer said. "There is a new selection process for the meet that will hopefully work in his favor. He is motivated and he knows this is it. His native country of Finland has started taking a notice of his again as far as National Team stuff, which is exciting to him. He wants to keep those dreams and goals alive for international competition as well."
Nick Kunkel registered his fastest season to date and will look to translate his success in his senior season. He finaled in the 100 backstroke, 200 backstroke and 200 individual medley at the conference championships. He finished sixth in the 200 back (1:45.36) at SEC's.
"Nick has set some big goals for SEC's and wants to get a podium finish in the 200 back," Geyer said. "He understands the work that needs to happen in the water and out of the water to make that happen. He is another senior that has developed from freshman year."
Zack Wepasnick notched his top competitive season last year and provides the Tigers with another multi-stroke competitor. He posted a pair of top-15 swims in the 100 breast and the 200 breast and swam the program's eighth best 200 IM (1:49.72) at the SEC Championships.
"Zack had some struggles his sophomore year in the water and out of the water. It set him back again, but once we got back on track and got his junior year under our belt with consistent training, he began swimming fast again," Geyer said. "I firmly believe that it takes a full year of training underneath you before you really see the dividends. That is where he is at now. We have the full year and the improved strength in the weight room. His senior year should be the most successful that he has."
Raymond De Padua made an impact in his first season after transferring from the junior college ranks. He posted a top-20 swim in the 200 butterfly at the conference meet.
Timmy Dasinger enters his final season as one of the program's top student-athletes are being named to the SEC Community Service Team. In the water, he posted the team's third fastest 200 free and 200 fly times for the season.
"Timmy had a great summer. He had the goals of qualifying for Olympic Trials and put the commitment into that from the end of SEC's on," Geyer said. "It came into fruition and turned out well. It is an example for any athlete who puts their mind to it. Leadership from him is valuable to our team. He has experience and seen a lot. He has hit the lows competitively and hit the highs competitively. He understands the process which is really important for a young team to see."
Andrew Muller qualified for the SEC Championships and swam the 50 free, 100 free and 200 free. In his second season in the SEC, Muller will look to repeat and final at the conference meet.
Helm will look to build on his 12th place finish on the platform at the NCAA Championships and his silver medal on the one-meter springboard at the SEC Championships. His diversity on all three surfaces provides Helm with an opportunity to score in all three events.
"Daniel develops a little bit stronger every single day he is in the water and with his training," Shaffer said. "He had a good training summer going into the Senior National Diving Circuit. He is coming into the year in better shape and stronger than he has ever been. We have set some really high goals. He wants to win a conference championship and final at the NCAA's. He wants to do a full list off of the 10-meter tower. Those are all things within his realm of capability."
Sean McKiney finished 11th on the three-meter at SEC's. Shaffer believes that McKinney is going to be one of the most improved athletes within the conference this season.
"We learned some things about Sean last year, "Shaffer said. "I believe that this year will be Sean's breakout year. We learned some things about his training and what makes him tick a bit more. A couple tweaks to the approach and to the mental side has already started to make some key improvements in his program. Sean wants to qualify at NCAA's and final at SEC's."
Jesse Lyman will look to return from his injury late in the season and make an impact.
"Jesse has been historically unhealthy at the wrong times,"Shaffer said. "Every hiccup and break from training affects you because your competition is still training and moving forward. If Jesse can stay healthy and focused on his goals, he has the opportunity to do some great things."
In swimming, Ricardo Alvarado Jimenez made a huge impact in his first season with the program. The Mexico native was the team's top 200 breast performer, swam in the A final of the 100 breast and 200 breast and captured the B final of the 200 IM at the SEC Championships.
"We expect him to be better than last year," Geyer said. "He has that expectation. There were times last year where his training was not as consistent as where it needed to be. He realizes that and sees that. We are addressing that every day and ready to move forward."
Michael Saco appeared to show little signs of rust after missing the second half of his freshman year with an injury. Saco finished 11th in the 50 free at SEC's and was a part of the team's season bests in the 200 free relay, the 400 free relay and the 200 medley relay.
"Michael was beat up pretty good his freshman year and got some things straightened out his sophomore year after getting some consistent training in," Geyer said. "He had a pretty solid SEC's and he carried that into the summer. He had a phenomenal 50 freestyle to qualify for Olympic Trails. With a consistent year under his belt, we are looking for some fast times."
Shane Coltharp with compete in free, back and IM events as he seeks a return to the SEC Championships.
The sophomore class immediately made an impact in their rookie seasons. Frank Greeff led the team in three individual events and was a member of four of the team's top relays. He earned a bronze medal at the SEC Championship with the program's second fastest all-time 200 breast mark of 1:45.03, which earned him a spot on the All-SEC Freshman Team.
Michael Young also was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team after swimming the fastest 100 back (48.16) posted by a freshman in a sixth place finish. He also finished 10th in the 200 back at SEC's.
Dillon Love added versatility with his ability to swim the 200 back and the 500 free. He qualified for the B final at the SEC Championships and cranked out the program's all-time eighth fastest 200 back time of 1:46.72.
"Dillon, Frank and Michael are three guys that had great performances at SEC's and were able to score points," Geyer said. "They have set the expectation upon themselves to raise that level again. For Dillon and Frank, it definitely is a team experience for them. They are looking at that 800 freestyle relay that was just off the school record looking last year and they want to demolish that record this year. More importantly, they have their eye on qualifying that relays for NCAA's. Both of those guys are pivotal in getting that relay there."
Fellow sophomores Sam Jardine, Tyler Jusselin and Mathew Schaefer enjoyed their first tastes of SEC competition in their freshman seasons.
"I think that for them they gained a lot of experience last year stepping into a higher realm of training and competition," Geyer said. "They really got their eyes opened to what SEC swimming is all about. For Matt, Sam and Tyler it is about making adjustments now in the water that puts them in a more competitive position within our program and the SEC."
On the diving side, Kevin Leong posted a pair of top-15 finishes at the SEC Championships on the one-meter and the platform.
"He has been a solid performer in dual-meet competition, but has yet to move into the realm of competing at an elite level at SEC's and potentially qualifying for NCAA's,"Shaffer said. "He can qualify for NCAA's and can score there. That is where our goals are set. We are starting off with a hard training regime that is focused on our fundamentals to hopefully carry us a little bit further in the championship part of the season."
The freshmen class will see four swimmers looking to score points at the SEC Championships and boost the team's relays. Baton Rouge natives Grant Grenfell and Colin Finnegan will attempt to make an impact early on.
"It is always important when you have local talent to start to rise up to try to put the boundaries up and keep them in state," Geyer said. "For Collin and Grant I think it was pretty easy to come to LSU. For Grant, this state doesn't see a lot of talent rising through the ranks of swimming because of the lack of opportunity and pools. To get him here, I think there is still a load of potential ahead of him. I have had the opportunity to watch him the past five or six years training within our facilities with the local club team. I think it is important for those two to help improve and increase the awareness of swimming in Louisiana."
Alexander Linge arrives on campus as someone who has a load of potential. He has competed for Sweden on the senior level and will predominately swim the 100 and 200 free and 100 and 200 fly.
"I am excited about Alex," Geyer said. "He came in recruiting wise a little bit under the radar. Sweden has taken a liking to him and has started taking a look at him for national events. What we've seen already is that he can probably drop down to the 50 free once he gets used to yards and nailing that turn a little bit. He can certainly compete in the 200 free and 200 fly."
Gabe Rooker is a US Olympic Trial participant who will challenge for the conference in the breaststroke events.
"We are excited to have him. I feel the Pacific Northwest can be a hot bed in terms of recruiting," Geyer said. "Last week at Centenary he threw down a 100 breast time slightly over 57 seconds, which is incredible because we have done minimal breaststroke work training wise. He trains really well and at a very high level. He can be phenomenal this year."