Last season a sleeping giant awoke from within the waters of McDonald’s Swim Stadium, and a roar was once again heard across the Pac-10 — USC swimming and diving is back.
After several years of trying to find its footing under a new coaching staff and a new training regime, the young team finally made a stand. Last season the No. 4 women’s team went undefeated in dual meets until its final battle against No. 2 Stanford.
However, the biggest upset was undoubtedly USC’s victory against 2009 NCAA Champion Arizona.
“I’m very excited about the momentum this team has gathered over the summer, and I’m excited to ride that momentum and start getting this team back to the top of NCAAs,” USC coach Dave Salo said.
This season shapes up to be full of major challenges for the men and women of Troy, the most immediate being next weekend’s dual meet against Arizona, who will be out for redemption.
“I was standing on the pool deck at USC getting my fanny kicked,” Arizona coach Frank Busch told the Arizona Daily Star last year following USC’s win. “USC kicked us in the teeth.”
Aside from Arizona, Bay Area rivals Cal and Stanford will once again be among this year’s toughest competitors. Last season the Women of Troy succeeded in silencing the confident No. 1 Golden Bears, yet neither team was able to overthrow the Cardinal.
The loss of last year’s senior class is already showing its effects. At Oregon State, the women’s team lost its first medley relay dual in three years, an event it formerly dominated with All-American seniors Kristen Lahey, Katy Houston, Rebecca Soni and Rachael Waller.
In their absence, it will be this year’s sophomores and the top-rated incoming freshmen class who will be fueling the engine, though their lack of collegiate experience may prove challenging for the young team.
Sophomore Ella Kidron is beginning to show herself worthy of taking over Soni’s breastroke reign, winning both breastroke events in the women’s Pac-10 opener against Oregon State.
The event to watch on the women’s side will be the 200 butterfly starring All-American sophomore Tanya Krisman, All-American transfer junior Lyndsay DePaul, All-American sophomore Katinka Hosszu and freshman Yumi So.
“We have three of the top-10 times in the country,” USC assistant coach Jeremy Kipp said. “That’s going to be a great race.”
The men’s team will be led by an impressive group of international imports. Freshman Richard Charlesworth brings a national title all the way from Great Britain and will be continuing a USC men’s distance tradition that has nurtured Olympians Larsen Jensen and Ous Mellouli.
The French freshman Clement Lefert is a national champion and 2008 Beijing Olympian. Clement’s 100 butterfly will be an event to watch this season, as well as the men’s 200 freestyle featuring Charlesworth, sophomore captain Patrick White and senior Zoltan Povazsay.
“I’m excited about the guys being excited about their potential this season,” Kipp said. “The kids we’re bringing in speaks volumes about what we already had.”
USC diving gains an outstanding asset in freshmen Ariel Rittenhouse, a 2008 Beijing Olympian and long standing member of the USA National Team, who finished fifth on the 3-meter at the Rome World Championships this summer.
“Not only was this result a personal best for her,” USC diving coach Hongping Li said, “but the best individual diving performance for the US in over 15 years.”
All-American sophomore Victoria Ishimatsu will also be a key competitor for the Women of Troy, looking to improve on her already-stellar collegiate reputation after winning the 3-meter diving event at the Pac-10 Championships last year.
All-American sophomore Harrison Jones and junior Steven Starks will be the men to watch in diving this season, both with NCAA Championship experience behind them.
“This is the best team I have coached in 10 years,” Hongping said, reflecting on his 11 years at USC. “We have a combination of talent and depth that we haven’t had before, and I anticipate great things this season.”
The diving team will host its USC Diving Invitational at McDonald’s Swim Stadium this weekend. The Trojans will then travel to the Arizona desert on Nov. 13 and 14 to face the Wildcats and Arizona State.