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Falcons swim into new season

October 16, 2008

The UW-River Falls swim team is set to kick off its season this Oct. 18, and swimmers and coaches alike are excited about the team’s chances to improve this year.

Both the men’s and women’s teams finished sixth in the WIAC last year, a result that head coach Bill Henderson said he was pleased with.

“We had a very good end of season,” Henderson said. “We did not make up any points in the standings, but we just swam out of our minds.”

This is Henderson’s seventh year coaching swimming at UWRF. He previously served as head coach of swimming and diving at Foothill College in San Francisco.

Although the Falcons worked hard and put together a solid 2007-08 season, Henderson said that most of the strength is coming back.

“We had a very good recruiting year, especially on the female side. I expect a stronger team overall this year,” he said.

The team is comprised of 27 female and 17 male swimmers, compared to 22 and 14, respectively, last year.

Although the new recruitment class has the whole coaching staff excited, Henderson said that he always feels the absence of swimmers of previous years. Captains Martha O’Brien and Tia Felts, both key members of the squad, graduated last spring. On the men’s side, UWRF lost top-performers Mike Kaiser and Tom Fritchen. Fritchen is now working as an assistant coach for the team.

“It is always hard to replace such important members of the team, but in terms of [WIAC] points, we more than make up for what we lost,” Henderson said.

One of the returning swimmers is Danielle Mandich, a sprint freestyle specialist who has been a conference finalist for the past three years.  Other returning team members include captains Katie Zappa and Jill Lambach. Henderson noted that Lambach is currently fighting through an abdominal injury, and hopes to be back at 100 percent soon.

On the men’s side, big scorers Ty Ormson and Ty Campbell return for the Falcons. Henderson also praised captain Dave Johnson, noting that although he has a quiet personality, he does an excellent job of leading by example.

Every swimmer is responsible for setting their personal expectations this season. Sophomore Emily Stein was affected by injuries last year, but is optimistic about the upcoming season.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” she said. “The team members we have are great people and great swimmers.”

Henderson has set a few specific goals for the team this season. He stated that he would like to see the women’s team jump two places (to fourth), and the men’s team to jump one pace (to fifth) in the WIAC standings.

“It is a very realistic goal, because we have made some very good progress,” Henderson said.

Currently, half the team members were captains in high school, and they instill a sense of leadership and responsibility in the locker room.  According to Henderson, “the biggest strength of this team, by far, is its closeness.”

He cited the fact that every Tuesday and Thursday, the group that finishes practice at 4:00 will come back and meet up with the rest of the team, which finishes at 6:00, always sticking together as a single unit.

“You’ll see a big group of kids walking down the sidewalk after the last practice. That is the swim team, all going to dinner together,” Henderson said proudly.

The Falcons’ first meet is Oct. 18 against UW-Oshkosh at River Falls High school.