With Strong Freshmen, Championship Experience, Tigers Ready To Open 2012-13
(Information on this weekend's Big Al Open, including a link for the live video, can be found at the bottom of this preview.)
The Princeton Swimming & Diving Class of 2012 will stand as one of the most celebrated in program history, and it deserves that legacy. It helped Princeton to four straight Ivy titles, including the most dramatic in league history (2011), and capped its career in DeNunzio style with a home championship last season.
But a funny thing happens in college. After four years, your spot on the block turns into a spot in the stands.
The 2012-13 Princeton men's swimming and diving team may not have some of the familiar names that Ivy League fans have grown accustomed to watching, but there is still plenty of depth within the program. From the sophomores through the seniors, each class knows only the feeling of victory at the end of the season.
As for the freshmen, this Class of 2016 was ranked fifth in the summer by CollegeSwimming.com. What was the last Princeton class to be ranked in the Top 5? Yes, the Class of 2012.
Princeton lost a deep class of sprinters last season, but it looks to have reloaded the group with a set of underclassmen. Sophomore Harrison Wagner will lead a deep, young corps of sprinters after his impressive freshman year. Wagner earned All-America Honorable Mention at the NCAAs in the 400 medley relay, and he already has the third-fastest 50 time in school history (19.63). He placed in the top four at Ivies in both the 50 and the 100, and he will be a fixture on the relays.
Watch for a trio of freshmen to replace the likes of Colin Cordes, Mike Monovoukas and Matt LaMonaca. Brooks Powell is an eight-time Texas state champion, including a four-time champ in the 50. Teo D'Allessandro, who will also factor in the breast and IM, was a USA Swimming All-America and an individual Florida state champion, while Jeremy Wong competed internationally at both the Asain Age Group Championships and the Malaysia Open.
While several individual Ivy champions graduated last season, Princeton returns a three-time champion in junior Paul Nolle. The winner in the 500, 1000 and mile, Nolle gained experience while competing at the NCAA Championships last year; he placed 25th in the mile during his first trip to nationals. He also set a meet record in the 1000 during Princeton's 2012 championship weekend, and he has Princeton records in both the 500 and 1000.
Of course, it got a bit lonely for Nolle that weekend, as he was usually carrying the heavy majority of Princeton's points in the distance events. Orr is hopeful that Princeton can get more swimmers into the 'A' finals, and one veteran he is counting on is senior Will Lawley. Like Nolle, Lawley was a 2012 Mid-Major All-America, and he placed fourth in the 500 free at the Ivy Championships.
Sophomore Michael Hauss earned first-team All-Ivy honors as part of the 800 free relay, and he was in the Top 5 in the 200 free. Classmate Conner Jager was a 'B' finalist in the 200 free, while sophomore Michael Hauss took seventh in the 500.
Freshman Zach Ridout is likely Princeton's best option to pair with Nolle in both the 1000 and mile. An Olympic Trials qualifier in the 1500, Ridout competed at both Junior and Senior Nationals, and he took fourth at Junior Nationals in the 800.
Sophomore Michael Strand is coming off a pair of Top-5 individual finishes in the back events at Ivy Championships, and he swam the stroke in a pair of winning relays. He placed second at Ivies in the 100 back, and he did so with the fastest time in Princeton history during prelims. He likely would have been competing with classmate Conner Maher for the title, but Maher was dealing with injury that weekend. Both could turn into a formidable 1-2 punch for the coming three seasons.
Senior Kaspar Raigla is former Ivy champion in the 100 back, and he'd like nothing more than to cap his career with another spot atop the medal podium. Raigla placed third in both the 100 and 200 back last year, and he has Top-3 all-time Princeton times in both.
Freshman En-Wei Hu-Van Wright qualified for Olympic Trials in the 100 back and competed at both Junior and Senior Nationals. An A-finalist at the 2011 Long Course Junior Nationals, Wright will add to Princeton's depth in the event. Junior Adam Lebovitz could also be a factor.
Another Mid-Major All-America Honorable Mention honoree, sophomore Oliver Bennett took second in the 200 fly at the Ivy Championships last year. He has the fifth-fastest 200 fly time in school history. Both Strand and Raigla have Top-10 times in the 100 fly; Strand took third in the 100 last year, while Raigla placed fifth.
Freshman Marco Bove is a three-time Italian Junior national champion in the 200 fly, and he has earned two medals in the 100 fly. He earned Italian Olympic Trials cuts in the 200 fly, as well as both the 200 and 400 IM.
Graduated senior Jon Christensen spent the last four years scoring major points for Princeton in the 100 and 200 breast, and it's possible that a few members of the Class of 2016 could do the same for the next four years.
Freshmen Byron Sanborn and Jack Pohlmann earned the highest individual rankings by CollegeSwimming.com among the Princeton freshmen, and both figure to be major factors in these events. Sanborn qualified for the US Open Championships this past summer and placed in the Top 40 in the 100 breast. He held an Olympic Trial cut in the 200, and he already has a 100 time that would place seventh all-time at Princeton.
Pohlmann would have the seventh-fastest 100 time and eighth-fastest 200 time at Princeton based on his best times. An Olympic Trials qualifer and Ohio state champion in the 100, Pohlmann competed with the Junior National team in Japan last year. D'Allessandro should also factor in this group; he has a Top-10 time in the 100, and he placed third in that event at Junior Nationals.
Of course, Princeton also has a couple of returners that expect to play a major role at Ivies. Junior Daniel Hasler is known for the IM, but he was an 'A' finalist in the 100 breast and has Princeton's sixth-fastest 200 time. Junior Eric Materniak will also look to earn a spot in the 'A' finals.
Hasler competed at the U.S. Open Championships this past summer and earned Top-16 finishes in both the 200 and 400 IM, including a 12th-place finish in the 400. He took third at Ivies in the 400 IM last year, and he earned Mid-Major All-America honors.
Hasler has the fourth-fastest 400 time in Princeton history, and sophomores Tuten and Bennett are both in the Top 10. Both made the 'A' final in the 400 at Ivies, and Tuten finished fourth. Bennett is Princeton's top returning finisher in the 200; he took the 'B' final in 1:49.57.
Maher is looking for a healthy return to Ivies this year, while both D'Allessandro and Bove hope to break into the 'A' finals during their first seasons. Bove held Olympic Trials cuts in both the 200 and 400, while D'Allessandro took third in the 200 IM at Junior Nationals.
Princeton's most decorated senior is Stevie Vines, a two-time diving champion and the 2011 Ivy League Championships Diver of the Meet. Vines was brilliant in setting a Princeton record in his 3-meter championship last year, and he will be shooting for an even better finish this year.
Junior Mark O'Connell had his best weekend at Ivies last season with two top-five finishes, while classmate Chris Kelly also made both 'A' finals last year. Underclassmen Michael Manhard and Noam Altman-Kurosaki have worked hard in the preseason and could earn a spot on the conference team.
The 2012-13 Big Al Open will begin Friday night at 6 pm, and will include sessions at 9 am and 2 pm on Saturday. Joining Princeton at its annual early-season meet will be Fordham, Georgetown, Lehigh and TCNJ.
You can watch all three sessions (subscription required) by clicking here.
The schedule of events can be found below:
Friday 6 pm
Women’s / Men’s 200 Free Relay
Women’s / Men’s 500 Free
Women’s / Men’s 200 IM
Women’s / Men’s 50 Free
Women’s / Men’s 400 Medley Relay
Saturday 9 am
Women’s / Men’s 200 Medley Relay
Women’s / Men’s 400 IM
Women’s / Men’s 100 Fly
Women’s / Men’s 200 Free
Women’s / Men’s 100 Breast
Women’s / Men’s 100 Back
Women’s / Men’s 800 Free Relay
Saturday 2 pm
Women’s / Men’s 1650 Free
Women’s / Men’s 200 Back
Women’s / Men’s 100 Free
Women’s / Men’s 200 Breast
Women’s / Men’s 200 Fly
Women’s / Men’s 400 Free Relay