W&L Men's Swimming 2010-11 Season Preview

W&L Men's Swimming 2010-11 Season Preview

The Washington and Lee men's swimming team will have a dichotomy of  experience and youth for its 2010-11 campaign.

After losing eight swimmers to graduation, eighth-year Head Coach Joel Shinofield will only have three seniors on his roster this winter. Even with the smaller numbers, he anticipates the four-year trio of captains Ryan Hanson and Brandon Wilder, along with classmate Dorsey Terry, will bring strong leadership to the squad.

"Our seniors have been a part of our success every season, so I look forward to this group contributing as well," remarked Shinofield. "From what I have seen in practice, they are more than ready to lead on the deck and in the pool.  They all have lofty goals, but they also worked hard this summer to put themselves into position to achieve those goals."

In addition to his seniors, Shinofield will look to his junior class, boasting nine swimmers, to help guide the underclassmen with their strong competitive presence in the pool.

Junior Chris Washnock, who has competed at the NCAA Championships in each of his first two years, will be poised to make a return to the national stage this season. Washnock swam in the 200 IM, 400 IM and 200 back at NCAAs last spring, earning Honorable Mention All-America accolades in the 200 back. He was also named to the Bluegrass Mountain All-Conference team, and was a recipient of CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District Team honors.

"Chris and I were both disappointed in his performance last year at NCAAs," stated Shinofield. "He knows exactly what he needs to do this season to improve from last year and he is focused on that every day in practice.  I have no doubt that Chris will be one of the finest swimmers in DIII this season."

Another talented junior returnee is Brian Stirling, who also earned All-Bluegrass Mountain Conference honors and missed competing at the NCAA Championship in the 100 fly by one one hundreth of a second. Last season, Stirling set the school record in the 100 fly with a time of 50.36, and he also owns another school record as a member of the 400 medley relay squad (3:26.29) that broke the record during his rookie campaign. With his strong performances last season, Shinofield is expecting Stirling to build on those successes and make a run for the national tournament.

"Brian is going to be our go-to swimmer this year," Shinofield mentioned. "He will play a vital role in every relay and his individual performances will be critical to our success in dual meets, the conference championship and in getting our relays to NCAAs."

Another leader for the Generals is Ryan Hartman, who will serve as tri-captain during his junior campaign.

"Ryan is our most vocal leader in the pool, he is the guy during practice who gets everyone fired up and motivates the team during our toughest training," said Shinofield. "Ryan has returned to us in the best shape of his life and I can't wait to see what he is capable of doing over the next few months."

Rounding-out the class of 2012 is Ben Absher, Frank Cullo, Ian Dexter, Robert Grattan, Brad Harder and Jeff Stirling. All together, the junior class boasts six past All-Bluegrass Mountain Conference honorees, five school record holders (Washnock in the 200 back and 400 IM, Brian Stirling in the 100 fly, Cullo in the 1650 free and both Washnock and Brian Stirling in the 400 medley relay) and two All-Americans. And it is that experience that Shinofield will look to help drive the competitive nature of his team.

"On paper the junior class is one of the deepest and most talented groups we have had here at W&L and this year they will get their chance to prove it in the pool," remarked Shinofield. "We should see a number of these guys experience breakout seasons that enable them to qualify for NCAAs."

The sophomore class of Will Ericson, Tyler Gehrs, Wayde Marsh and Rick Sykes will add depth to the Generals' roster, while continuing to build on the successes of last season.  Marsh and Sykes were both members of relay squads that recorded NCAA "B" cut times, while all four swimmers showed a strong competitive nature in their first season with the Generals, tallying several top-three finishes during meets throughout the season.

"Last year was the most mature group of freshmen that I have ever coached," stated Shinofield. "They are great students and really understand how to set their priorities."

Shinofield added "Rick achieved an NCAA "B" cut in the 50 free and, after swimming this summer at Harvard, I feel like he can make great improvements in that event, as well as make strides in his other events.  Tyler and Wayde are incredibly versatile and should factor into our relays and will score. They have NCAA aspirations as well.  If we can keep Will Ericson healthy he should also contribute."

Shinofield will add 10 first-year swimmers this season, and he is excited about what the large class will bring to the pool. Joining W&L for the 2010-11 campaign are first-years Forrest Behne, Philip Dishuck, Mark Faubion, Mathew Hesser, David Ireland, Robert Knuth, Giovanni Marciano, Brendan McGoldrick, Justin Meyers and Eric Shuman.

"This is a truly exciting group of guys with tremendous potential in every event, and we will ask them to contribute from the first meet onward," remarked Shinofield. "I expect NCAA cuts and qualifiers out of this group this season."

With a strong balance of returning and new swimmers, Shinofield is hopeful that his team is poised to return to the top of the Bluegrass Mountain Conference, and have a strong contingent at the NCAA Championship at the University of Tennessee this spring.

"Our conference is among the most competitive in the country, but I feel like we have the right guys to compete for the conference championship," said Shinofield. "On a national level we need to focus on getting our relays qualified for the meet so that we can really have a chance to place in the Top 15."

"This is a really balanced squad, they are training really well together," he added.  "It will be fun to see who steps up to be a difference maker in the competition environment."

The Generals begin their season tonight as they host Mary Washington.