Jan. 11, 2005

After stepping in to fill the shoes of head coach Linda Lichter-Witter while she was assisting with the U.S. Olympic Team last season, Holly Vargo-Brown will lead the Buckeyes once again in 2005. Lichter-Witter, who served as the assistant coach on the U.S. squad who won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, is on medical leave and Vargo-Brown will take over until her return.

Vargo-Brown earned her first coach of the year honors in 2004 after leading the Buckeyes to their fifth-consecutive and 24th title in 28 years of the history of the collegiate national championships.

With almost every student-athlete returning from a year ago, everyone will be working hard for a top spot and a chance to compete for another national title.

“The main goal for me is to make sure we stay focused and connected throughout the year,” Vargo-Brown said. “It’s very easy to let things distract you. We always say it’s pretty tough to beat a group of Buckeyes swimming down the pool as one. That is really our goal, and then whatever happens, happens.”

With just two Buckeyes departing from the 2004 roster, Ohio State returns a core of leadership in eight seniors and eight juniors.

Seniors Heather Burdick, Lauren Marsh and Lindsay Newbill will be swimming their final season as a Buckeye for the ‘A’ team. Marjorie Ardito, Stacey Coffman, Mary Elliott, Bethany Galla and Valerie Jolibois are also set to begin their senior years in key roles on the Ohio State ‘B’ team. “Their leadership is going to be very important,” Vargo-Brown said. “They have been here – they have done it. They know what it’s like to be on top but they also know what it feels like to be behind and how to pull a team together. That is where they are going to be very key and valuable. They have to be able to bring everyone together and make sure we always have our best effort.”

Despite the loss of All-American Kate Hooven, who was a member of the national championship duet and trio teams, the remainder of the Buckeye ‘A’ team returns from a year ago.

Sophomore Becky Kim, a 2004 All-American, will headline the Buckeye events this season. Kim was named a member of the United States National Team I in the fall of 2004 and is on track for the 2008 Olympic Games. Vargo-Brown expects Kim to be the top swimmer in the solo event and also will compete in the duet, trio and team events for the Buckeyes.

“She is our top athlete,” Vargo-Brown said. “I would expect that she would be in most of those top routines. We want to showcase her talent.”

Two-time All-American Newbill also returns for her senior season at Ohio State. Newbill was a member of the national championship trio team with Kim and Hooven in 2004 and swam as a member of the ‘A’ team that also claimed a national title. Newbill is the front-runner to take over for Hooven as Kim’s duet partner and also will swim in the trio and team events.

Juniors Carly Grimshaw and Chelsea Luker, both 2004 honorary All-Americans, are expected to challenge for the top duet spot and also will team up with Marsh to structure a trio for Ohio State. Along with Kim and Newbill, either Burdick or sophomore Ellen Hacker, both members of the national championship ‘A’ team, will form a trio as well.

“Just within our own team there will be a fight to see who will be at the top,” Vargo-Brown said. “The depth is certainly there.”

Also expected to contend for spots on the competitive ‘A’ team will be junior Lauren Byrom and sophomore Ashley Rule.

The Ohio State ‘B’ squad, who finished fourth in the team event at the 2004 Collegiate National Championships, will be aggressive in the pool again this season. Only Katie Meyer was lost to graduation from the team a year ago.

“It’s going to be tough making sure everyone is pushing themselves to be stronger,” Vargo-Brown said. “It is going to be so important losing eight people next year that we want to have some experience. The ‘B’ team is going to be instrumental in that process.”

Senior Stacey Coffman and juniors Jessica Beck, Leslie Edgerton, Megan Mikulecky, Stephanie Raftery and Erin Schmidt have had two solid years of experience swimming for the ‘B’ team and will be the core of the squad the season. Sophomores Aubrey Ford and Brooke Paul also will figure into the mix.

Lichter-Witter and Vargo-Brown welcome five freshmen faces to the Buckeye squad this season. Twin sisters Leah Pinette and Leayn Pinette, both with international experience under their belts as members of the U.S. National II team, will immediately battle for a spot on the ‘A’ team. Rookies Michelle Benzie, Julia Broadfoot and Erin DeMarco also will figure into the mix.

“The new ones are excited to be here,” Vargo-Brown said. “They bring a fresh energy. Typically a new athlete comes in and maybe takes some time to figure things out. Most of this class is coming in and ready to go. They are pushing some of the returning swimmers. There is a lot of energy out there.”

Ohio State will kick of the 2004-05 season with a duel meet against Florida Dec. 19. The home schedule will officially begin when the Buckeyes play host to the OSU Tri-Meet Jan. 15 in Varsity Pool at Larkins Hall. After a trip to Canton to face off against Walsh, Ohio State will play host to the OSU College Association Meet Feb. 5. Two more road meets at Richmond and William & Mary will serve as tune-ups for the Maize and Blue Invitational in Ann Arbor, Mich., Feb. 20. The North Regional Championships will be hosted once again by Ohio State March 5. The 2005 Collegiate National Championships are slated for March 24-26 in Gainesville, Fla. The U.S. Senior National Championships round out the season and are scheduled for April 28-30.