Nov. 1, 2006

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State women’s swimming and diving team opens the 2006-07 season with a home meet Saturday against conference rival Illinois. The Buckeyes will compete at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion at 1 p.m.

Head coach Jeanne Fleck returns for her eighth year with the Buckeyes with high expectations. After a season with many high points last year, Fleck is expecting the momentum to carry into the 2006-07 season.

“I feel like this is going to be a good year,” Fleck said. “We want to get five or six women to swim individual races and we want a relay to qualify to swim at NCAA’s. Also, we will have Anesa Beard back to dive, and we’re adding Katie Bell along with Chelsea Davis, a transfer from Northwestern who is the defending Big Ten champion. With those girls, and our current times alone, we’ll add a lot of points.”

A Look at Illinois
Illinois head coach Sue Novitsky returns for her sixth season with the Illini. While there, she has guided her swimmers to 70 school records. Under her leadership, 10 swimmers qualified to compete at the NCAA champioships. Last year the team finished ninth in the Big Ten.

The Fighting Illini enter this weekend with three dual-meet wins under their belt. The women began their season by dominating Oakland, 171.5-102.5. They went on to edge out conference rival Michigan State, 166-134. Last weekend Illinois won 15 of the 16 events against in-state opponent Illinois State, crushing them with a score of 210-90.

Last Time Out vs. The Illini
Current swimmers on either team have not yet faced one aother in a dual meet, as the Buckeyes and the Fighting Illini last met on Jan. 25, 2003 in Champaign, Ill. Ohio State fell to Illinois when the Illini dominated the meet, winning all but three events.

Deanna Strunk was the sole Buckeye to win an event at the meet, capturing titles in the 100-and 200-yard butterfly events, as well as the 200-yard individual medley.

Fleck has selected two swimmers and one diver to guide the team as captains. Senior Gulsah Gunenc became the first female swimmer to final at the NCAA championships since 1995. Classmate Stephanie Fennell clocked the fastest time for the team in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke, as well as the 200-yard individual medley. Rounding out the trio is senior diver Anesa Beard. Beard’s teammates voted her most inspirational for her perfromace last season, making her the first diver ever to be awarded the honor. She also is the first diver to become a captain.

Final Lap
Gulsah Gunenc, Stephanie Fennell and Anesa Beard are joined by Liz Oseter, Rebekah Rychalvsky, Julie Broms in representing the senior class. Fleck will look to the talented class to provide the leadership needed for a winning season as five of the six seniors scored points at the Big Ten championships last season.

“I am excited to see what the seniors are going to do this year,” Fleck said. “They had such a great year last year. They have the best attitudes about training and competing. It shoud be fun to watch.”

The Buckeyes return a strong freestyle department. Griet Buelens, an NCAA qualifier in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events and last season’s second fastest swimmer in four events, will lead the distance division.

In the sprint events, Elaine Chan and Annie Rennebohm return as the women’s fastest swimmers. Chan recorded the fastest time in the 50-yard freestyle (23.20), while Rennebohm swam the team’s fastest time of 51.45 in the 100-yard distance.

Linda Lund Kristiansen will assist in the sprint events while sophomore Stasia von Rahl will be exptected to compete in various freestyle distances. Freshman Ferris Blaskovits, Katie Chute, Jill Lockhart, Sarah Krone and Haley Mitchell are exected to immediately impact the program.

The butterfly events will continue to be a strong point for the Scarlet and Gray. Senior Gulsah Gunenc and junior Griet Buelens return as the team’s fastest swimmers in both events. Last season, Gunenc earned All-American status for her seventh-place finish in the 200-yard butterfly at NCAA championships. Her time of 1:57.78 became the fastest in Ohio State history. Buelens also competed at NCAA championships in the distance and posted the team’s second fastest times in both butterfly events.

Courtney Brayman will assist Gunenc and Buelens in both events. Brayman scored points at nine dual meets last season. Linda Lund Kristiansen will add depth in the sprint distance while freshman Jill Lockhart will round out the 200-yard event.

Senior Stephanie Fennell will be expected to lead the backstroke compartment. She returns as the fastest swimmer in both the 100- and 200-yard backstroke. Fennell boosted the team’s standing at Big Tens last season with 14th-place finishes in both of the distances.

Elaine Chan will aid Fennell in the sprint distance. Chan swam the backstroke leg of the school-record breaking 200-yard medley relay last year. Newcomer Jill Lockhart, along with veterans, Liz Osterer and Gulsah Gunenc will be expected to provide depth in the events.

Ohio State showcases a stacked group of breaststrokers. Senior Rebekah Rychalvsky will lead the women, as she posted the fastest time of the season in the 200-yard breaststroke. Rychalvsky also contributed to the breaskstroke leg of the school record breaking 200-yard medley relay. Joining her is Erin Church, who recorded the fastest time in the 100-yard event.

Rookies Megan Alexander and Colleen Schweitzer will immediately impact the program as both of they already post times in the team’s Top 5. Senior Liz Osterer and junior Sam Johnson will add depth to the events when needed.

Individual Medley
Distance swimmers Liz Osterer, Samantha Johnson and Gulsah Guenec will carry the team in the 400-yard distance. Gunenc recorded last season’s fastest time of 4:20.72 at the Big Ten championships when she touched the wall 10th. Osterer posted her personal best time of 4:29.51, the team’s second fastest time last year.

Athletes who primarily swim strokes will compete in the 200-yard individual medley. Jill Lockhart begins her Buckeye career as the fastest swimmer (2:05.36) in the event. As Stephanie Fennell is the team’s fastest returning swimmer, she will support Lockhart. Megan Alexander also will swim the event when she is not competing in breaststroke.

On the Boards
Ohio State presents an outstanding diving team this year. Returning to lead the diving corps will be seniors Julie Broms and Anesa Beard. Broms took home the bronze medal in the event at the 2006 Big Ten Championships. Beard recorded her highest finish of 10th at the Big Ten meet last year in the 3-meter.

Joining the senior divers will be sophomore Northwester transfer Chelsea Davis and freshman Katie Bell. Davis comes to Ohio State from Northwestern as the defending Big Ten champion on the 3-meter. Davis was a member of the U.S. World Championship in 2005. Both Davis and Bell have been members of the U.S. Diving National Team and have competed frequently in international competition.

The Schedule
The 2006-07 season will have many challenges. The women will open their season with three conference meets, two of which will be swum away from home. The team return home to complete the fall portion of their dual-meet season with a meet against Toledo. The team will conclude the regular dual-meet season in January against two Big Ten rivals and three in-state competitors. A preview event for the post-season championships will take place Dec. 1-3, when the Buckeyes host the Ohio State Invitational.

The postseason will begin with the Big Ten championships in Minnesota. Those who make the NCAA cut and are selected to attend the national meet will return to Minneapolis, Minn., Mar. 8-10.

Coach Jeanne Fleck
Head women’s swimming coach Jeanne Fleck is in her eighth season at the helm of the Ohio State women’s swimming program. She has become accustomed to her teams displaying excellence in the water and in the classroom throughout her coaching career.

Last season, Fleck coached the first swimer since 1995 to All-American status. During her tenure at Ohio State she has geared the Buckeyes to 11 school records. The Buckeyes had the highest grade point average in the Big Ten conference in 2004 and was ranked ninth in the country during fall quarter of 2003. In six seasons, Fleck has had 48 Academic All-Big Ten selections and 89 OSU Scholar-Athletes.

About Coach Panzano
Vince Panzano is in his 28th season as coach of the Ohio State men’s and women’s diving teams. Panzano, who was named the 2004 Big Ten Diving Coach of the Year for the eighth time in his career, has produced one world champion, one junior world champion, two Olympic medalists, 22 U.S. Diving champions, ten NCAA champions, 14 NCAA runners-up, 45 Big Ten champions and 68 NCAA All-Americans.

Up Next
The Buckeyes will return to action next weekend with two more conference meets. The team will travel to swim the No.10-ranked Michigan Wolerines, Nov. 10 at 4 p.m. The women will then travel to Michigan State, Nov. 11 at 9 a.m.