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Swimming & Diving
Devils return two All-American divers
FREDONIA, N.Y. -- When Arthur Wang took over as Fredonia State swimming and diving coach five years ago, he envisioned a steady climb up the SUNYAC leaderboard.Progress has been made, but the ascent has been slower than Wang had anticipated. His men's and women's teams will look to change that starting Saturday when they open their dual season with a home meet vs. Morrisville State at 1 p.m. "It (improvement in the SUNYAC) has not been as fast as I had hoped," Wang said, "but when I came in, the conference was very slow. It has gotten progressively faster. Had it remained the same, we'd be second or third by now." Both teams were fifth at the SUNYAC championships last season, with the men only seven points out of fourth place. With a number of key performers back, and a solid year of recruiting, higher finishes at the 2008 championships are possible. Each team is led by an All-American diver. In the case of the women, junior Kelly Sponholz (Alden) is a four-time NCAA award winner. She finished third off the 1-meter board and fifth off the 3-meter at the NCAA Division III meet last March in Houston, Texas. As a freshman, she earned honorable mention recognition in both events, while senior Scott Horsington (Rochester/Churchville-Chili) garnered honorable mention All-America status off both boards in 2007. In addition, Sponholz and Horsington are the school record-holders in their respective events. "A big part of what we've done," Wang said, "has been because of the divers." Former men's head coach John Crawford, now a Blue Devil assistant, specializes in the dives. In addition to Sponholz and Horsington, he will oversee a solid group again this season. Senior tri-captain Theresa MacInnes (Tonawanda/Kenmore East) set school records as a freshman before they were eventually ecliped by Sponholz, while sophomore Christian Torres (Dunkirk) has been drilling well in the preseason, leading to heightened expectations from his coaches. In the pool, the women return school record-holders in junior tri-captain Emily Dizer (Tonawanda/Sweet Home) and sophomore Taylor Kelly (Wading River/Shoreham-Wading River) -- Dizer in both backstroke events, Kelly in the 100 breast stroke. They will be augmented by the return of sophomore distance freestyler Monica Dunlevy (Batavia) and senior tri-captain Stacy Krens (Brockport), who'll compete in the individual medley and in distance freestyle races. The top three freshmen are middle-distance specialist Morgan Reisch (Fairport), buttflyer/sprinter Caitlyn Fields (Buffalo/Sacred Heart), and breast stroker/freestyler Jenna Stelmach (Hamburg/Frontier). Wang also anticipates two other freshmen, sprint freestyler Emily Wiles (Apalachin/Owego) and freestyler Kara-Ann Moore (Liverpool), to develop into solid performers as the season progresses. "This is," Wang said, "the strongest team we've had off the top in terms of swimmers who can score at SUNYACs. This team has the most depth I've had, too." On the men's side, senior breast stroker and captain Brian Ruffles (Angola/Lake Shore) will be joined by a corps of returning sophomores. Among them is Al Palmquist (Olean), whose the No. 1 seed in the backstroke going into SUNYACs last season before illness cut his season short. The others are sprint freestyle Evan Prewitt (Rochester/Rush-Henrietta), breast stroker Michael Seay (Grand Island), and freestyler Brent Davis (Albion). Wang counts distance freestyle/breast stroker Michael Mitchell (Medina) and freestyler/breast stroker Steven Joint (Bath) as his top two freshmen among the men. "They have tremendous potential," Wang said. Overall, Wang likes the make-up of his men's team. "This is the most mature team we've had," he said. "They're more focused, more driven as to where they want to go and what they want to achieve. A goal would be to qualify multiple members to the NcAA championships." The meet Saturday vs. Morrisville is the first of eight home meets, and the first of eight dual meets on the 2007-08 schedule. The home slate is again highlighted by the Blue Devil Invitational, a three-day meet comprised of seven teams Nov. 30 through Dec. 2. "We could have," Wang said, "a promising dual meet season. The team has been beatng their heads against the wall for five weeks. They're ready to swim someone else."