Jan. 26, 2005

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Columbus, Ohio – The Ohio State synchronized swimming team (3-0) will battle Canisius and Walsh in a tri-meet at noon Saturday at the Northwest Community Center in Canton, Ohio.

Walsh, who finished 13th last season at the 2004 Collegiate National Championships, will open the 2005 season with the tri-meet Saturday. The Cavaliers return five letterwinners from last season in Megan Brandon, Beverlyann Burson, Annika Castle, Kristen Mueller and Jennifer Valesak. The roster also features two newcomers in Christa Hess and Chelsea Jarrell.

Head coach Dee Dent, who founded the synchronized swimming program at Walsh, returns to take over the mentoring duties after a two-year absence. Synchronized swimming became a varsity sport at Walsh in 1993.

The Griffins finished fourth at the 2004 Collegiate National Championships after winning the ECAC championships. The Canisius squad is led by seniors Faith Mikalonis and Andrea Prinzbach. The roster also features veterans Kristina Averell, Alaina Hill, Katie Meger, Andrea Natoli, Jamee Paoloemilio, Beth Richie and Katie Scanlon.

Head coach Stacy Leiker, a 2004 graduate of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, is in her first season at the helm of the Griffin program.

Ohio State defeated Keuka College and Michigan in the OSU Tri-Meet Jan. 15 at Larkins Hall in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes finished with a total of 94 points, ahead of Keuka College (69.5) and Michigan (61). OSU earned first-place honors in the solo, duet and trio events.

Ohio State junior Chelsea Luker won the solo event with a score of 91.333. Luker teamed up with Carly Grimshaw to claim the duet title with a mark of 92.667. Freshman sisters Leah Pinette and Leayn Pinette finished second in duet with a score of 90.167.

Seniors Lindsay Newbill and Heather Burdick and sophomore Ellen Hacker placed first in trio with a mark of 92.000. Grimshaw, Luker and Lauren Marsh finished second in the event with a score of 91.833.

In addition, Grimshaw took home first-place honors in technical elements with a score of 80.875. Luker finished second and Hacker placed third.

The Buckeye roster features 26 student-athletes, nine of which hail from the state of California. Eight Buckeyes come from Ohio and three hail from the Connecticut.

After stepping in to fill the shoes of head coach Linda Lichter-Witter while she was assisting with the U.S. Olympic Team, 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. 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 whole 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, so 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 the 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 also swam as a member of the `A’ team that 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 form a second competitive duet 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, Lauren Byrom, Leslie Edgerton, Megan Mikulecky, Stephanie Raftery and Erin Schmidt have had 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 are expected to make an impact.

“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 is 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.

Six members of the Ohio State synchronized swimming team were named to United States National Teams I or II in November after compeition at the U.S. National Team Trials in Walnut Creek, Calif.

Ohio State sophomore Becky Kim was the only Buckeye named to U.S. National Team I. This squad, the highest in the nation, is regarded as the future Olympic team. The U.S. National Team I will compete July 17-31 at the FINA World Championships in Montreal, Quebec.

Additionally, five Buckeyes were named to U.S. National Team II, including seniors Heather Burdick and Lindsay Newbill, sophomore Ellen Hacker and freshman sisters Leah Pinette and Leayn Pinette. The U.S. National Team II also will compete this summer in events that will be announced at a later date.

“We are extremely pleased with the successful depth of Ohio State at this event,” Holly Vargo-Brown, Ohio State interim head coach, said. “To have six of the Top 22 athletes in the country is very exciting. I am extremely proud of how hard they worked to prepare for such an intense competition so early in their season.”

The Ohio State synchronized swimming team claimed first place honors at the 2004 Collegiate National Championships March 27 in Ann Arbor, Mich. It marks the fifth consecutive crown for the Buckeyes and 24th title in the 28-year history of the event.

The Buckeyes captured first-place finishes in the duet, trio and team events. The freshman pair of Becky Kim and Kate Hooven earned their first collegiate titles with a win in duet, posting a score of 95.667. Sophomores Carly Grimshaw and Chelsea Luker finished third in the event with a mark of 92.833.

Hooven, Kim and junior Lindsay Newbill won the trio event with a score of 95.667 while Grimshaw, Luker and Lauren Marsh took home third with a mark of 93.833.

The Buckeyes also finished in the top spot of the team competition. The `A’ team garnered first place with a score of 98.167. The `B’ team also had a respectable showing, earning a fourth-place finish with a mark of 95.167.

All of the Buckeye routines qualified for the U.S. National Championships held April 23-25 in Palo Alto, Calif. The Buckeyes finished second in the team event.

The Buckeyes will play host to the OSU College Association Meet at 2 p.m. Feb. 5 in the Varsity Pool at Larkins Hall.