Swimming & Diving
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2008-09 Men's Preview

Sophomore Tyler Reed is one of the top Wildcat men returning to a top-20 team a year ago.

Sophomore Tyler Reed is one of the top Wildcat men returning to a top-20 team a year ago.

Oct. 16, 2008

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Optimism is defined as a tendency to look on the more favorable side of events. The 2008-09 University of Kentucky men's swimming and diving team isn't just looking for a favorable outcome--they expect it. The Kentucky men's squad returns the bulk of their lineup from their top-20 NCAA finish, and welcomes a talented class of freshmen that are eager to help propel UK into a top-15 finish on the national scene this year.

Not only did the men's team finish on a high note a year ago, there were many success stories throughout the summer only heightening this team's level of expectations. Junior Elvis Burrows participated in the 2008 Olympic Games with the Bahamian national team, while junior Eric McGinnis secured a spot on the 2009 World University Games team with a world class 50-freestyle swim at the US Open. Others participating in a rigorous summer schedule were Shane Eliason, Tyler Reed, Kyle Greene, Warren Grobbelaar and Alex Forbes.

"I think that the experience they gained only helped increase their confidence levels," Head Coach Gary Conelly said. "They know that they can compete on the biggest of stages and succeed."

The good summer of training, along with a change in the pre-season workouts has the team energized to begin the season.

"Our energy level during our workouts, is at a very high level," Conelly added. "We're extremely excited to see how this season plays out for us."

Sprint Freestyle
Burrows, Grobbelaar, Forbes and McGinnis headline this talented group. Each holds a time in the top-10 all-time at Kentucky in the 50-free. Grobbelaar is a top-16 finisher at the SEC Championships in his first three seasons, while McGinnis claimed a top-eight spot a year ago.

 

 

Sophomore Colin Faris and junior Chris Richard are also sure to see time in the sprint races, while, Eliason is a vital part of the 200- and 400-free relay teams. Freshmen Rohan Johnson and Matt Russell will add even more depth to the field.

Middle Distance Freestyle
Reed had a sensational freshman season and is knocking on the door of several UK records in both the 200- and 500-free.

"He really had a great freshman season," Conelly said. "But, I expect him to be even better this year, now that he's been in the program for a year."

Greene and sophomore Reinhardt Strijdom form a solid returning group in this area. However, adding freshman Morne' Boshoff will add an incredible dynamic to this already deep group.

"Morne' is a standout in our freshman class," Conelly said. "He's training exceptionally hard and will see a lot of action for us in a variety of events."

Distance Freestyle
Reed and Boshoff will swim the 500-free, but not much more yardage beyond that. That's where senior James Batley, junior Marco Iemmola and junior Kevin Ryan will provide depth. Freshman Ben Russell will also add to the rotation in the group. Batley and Iemmola will be asked to carry the bulk of the load, and expectations are high for them each to score at SECs. After strong seasons a year ago, Conelly expects his distance group to be even stronger than it has been in previous years.

Breaststroke
With the departure of the best breaststroker in school history in Will Vietti, a lot is being asked of promising freshman Grant Cooksey.

"He (Cooksey) has a really powerful stroke," Conelly said. "He's going to have a little more speed than Vietti, but he has to step into an extremely important role for us if we want to achieve some of our goals this season."

Cooksey will also be asked to replace Vietti on the medley relays, and he is the leading candidate to do so. However, junior Julio Vallette has been right on his heels in practice. Conelly is expecting the tandem to continue to push one another in hopes of keeping this stroke at a continued high level.

Junior Justin Max and Matt Russell will also step into the breaststroke lineup. They both are expected to provide strong support to the group particularly in dual meet season.

Backstroke
Eliason is the leader of the backstroke group, having shot up UK's record books in both the 100- and 200-back events in his junior campaign, and Conelly only expects even better results out of his senior this season. Eliason led the squad in both events a year ago, taking the backstroke leg of the medley relays. This year Conelly is hoping for Eliason to contend in the top-eight in the conference as well as the top-16 finish in the nation.

Greene and senior Joe Retrum have also been vital contributors in the backstroke events. Retrum always seems to step up the most in high-stake meets like the SEC Championships, while Greene has been a consistent finisher in dual meets. Freshmen Ben Russell, Patrick Schaler and Adam Twer will all also step into roles in the backstroke events.

Butterfly
Butterfly is another deep field for the Wildcats. Grobbelaar and Burrows are both outstanding in the 100-fly and extremely fast in the 50-leg of the 200-medley relays. They will once again carry the team in the sprint sector of the events. Forbes and junior Travis Muzzillo are also major factors in the 100-fly.

"Warren and Elvis are very close time-wise in the sprint fly," Conelly said. "I feel very good about our lineup here with Alex and Travis adding to our depth."

As for the 200-fly, Retrum has been a solid force for the Blue and White. He'll be joined by Matt Russell, Batley, Cooksey and freshman Mike Crady.

Individual Medley
"Shane Eliason did extremely well for us in the IM last year," Conelly said. "I think he combined with Morne' (Boshoff), will give us a very good one-two punch here."

Eliason led the team in both individual medleys a year ago. Boshoff is credited by his coach with having four very strong strokes and will be a major factor for the team.

Retrum also provided a steady 200-IM race in his three seasons. Matt Russell, Cooksey and Twer will all also see time in the individual medley races this season.

Diving
Senior Justin Smith leads the divers on the men's side and is joined by freshman Tom Gimm.

Smith scored on all three boards a year ago at the SEC Championships. He's continually improved in each of his three seasons with the Wildcats, and his coach Ted Hautau expects his last to be his best. Conelly knows he'll need production from his divers if UK has a chance of being a top level team in the nation in 2009.

Gimm was a six-year letterwinner out of Mounds View in Minnesota. He was an All-American in high school and a state finalist for four seasons.

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