PHILADELPHIA - The Penn women's swimming program will open their 2006-07 season against one of the toughest teams in the league this weekend, as they travel to Camrbidge, Mass., to take on Harvard at noon onSaturday. Last year, the Crimson went 7-0 in the Ivy League, and 10-0 overall, easily taking home the Ivy title. But the Quakers have one of the strongest teams in recent years returning, and hope to start the year off with an unexpected Ivy upset.
After achieving its highest Ivy finish in school history last season, the 2006-07 Penn women’s swim team looks to be even stronger. The Quakers return 10 school recordholders, nine individual Ivy finalists, and eight individual Ivy consolation finalists. In addition to the returning upperclassmen, Penn adds a tremendous group of newcomers, a class that includes eight swimmers and one diver. With this group of women, Penn swimming has the potential to compete for an Ivy title this season.
A fast and deep group of distance swimmers will lead the team, anchored by seniors Cameron Villarreal and Margot Newcomer as well as sophomore Theresa Altieri. Villarreal is the second-fastest distance swimmer in Penn history (4:55, 10:11), and a six-time Ivy finalist in the past three years. Newcomer is a three-time Ivy finalist in the 500 free (4:55) and 1650 (17:04), while Altieri made two Ivy finals (4:57, 17:10) as a freshman last season. The distance group also features Ivy scorers Nicole Malgeri and Lindsey Gottschalk, as well as Katherine Donohue, Andrea DeLeon, and Lauren Talman. This group of dedicated swimmers leads the team every day in practice and sets a tremendous tone for the team to follow. Penn’s already strong distance group will be bolstered by the addition of incoming freshman Stephanie Nerby (1:52, 5:00, 10:20), who will be an immediate contender in the Ivy League.
In the sprint and middle distance events, Penn will look to continue its tradition of excellence. Senior Stephanie Colson (23.5, 52) was an Ivy finalist and will lead a talented and very deep group of freestylers. Colson is the Penn record-holder in the 50 freestyle, and she combined to be part of school records in all five relays. In addition to Colson, Penn’s freestyle group is led by junior Amy Ottensmeyer (52, 1:53) and sophomore Ivy finalist Lauren Bergstrom (52, 1:52, 4:59). They will be aided by the fastest and deepest group of freshman sprinters in school history Sara Coenen (51, 1:51, 4:57), Lauren Brandes (23,51), Andrea Balint (24,51, 1:52) and Amy Reams (23, 52) will make the Quaker sprint group a dominant force in the Ivy league this year.
The backstroke events will be carried by an outstanding group of athletes sophomore Tara Gillies (58, 2:04), senior Hayley Wolfgruber (59, 2:06) and junior Sarah Bargmann (59, 2:06). Senior school record-holder Colson handles the 50 (26.4) and 100 back (57.0). Incoming freshman Ainsley Cookingham is the fastest high school backstroker ever recruited (57, 2:03) and will be an immediate Ivy contender.
The butterfly events will again be a huge strength for the Quakers, led by seniors Alison Bretherick (2:05) and Sarah Jeffers (2:05). While Bretherick and Jeffers concentrate on the 200 fly, sophomores Gillies (57, 2:05) and Laura Derasmo (57, 2:05) are able to swim both fly events. Freshman Sarah Ladley (58, 2:04) will be an immediate Ivy contender in the 200 fly, and will be heavily relied on as well.
The Penn breaststroke group, led by school record holder and Ivy finalist Megan Carlin, will again battle for league supremacy. Carlin is the fastest breaststroker in Penn history, posting school-record times of 1:03 and 2:18 in the 100 and 200 events. In addition to Carlin, the breaststroke group is deep and talented. Senior Laine Litman is a two-time Ivy consolation finalist in both breasts (1:07, 2:25), while Gottschalk (1:06, 2:23) made two Ivy consolation finals last year. Sophomore Amy Wolf (1:08, 2:28) will add depth and quality to this crew and be looked upon to make the next step this year.
The 200 and 400 Individual medleys will also be strong events for the Penn women. Leading the way will be school record-holders Bretherick (2:05, 4:26) and Gillies (2:05). Ottensmeyer (2:06, 4:32) and Bargmann (4:35) will also contribute mightily in these events. Penn will also look to super-versatile Coenen (2:06) and Balint (2:07) to help in the 200 IM, as well as Cookingham (4:33) and Ladley (4:33) in the 400 IM.
The diving events will be handled by the best group of divers in recent Penn history. Senior divers Janis Scanlon and Kate McArdle will be joined by sophomore Kenyon Lewis and freshman Melissa Gardel to make a deep, talented squad. Scanlon is an Ivy and Eastern Zone finalist in 1-meter and will be a solid contender to win an Ivy title this season.
With a tremendous group of returning swimmers and divers, and with the addition of one of the top freshman classes in Penn history, the possibilities for the 2006-07 Penn women’s swimming team are limitless.