Coughlin Leads Group of All Americans Into Pool

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Start with the NCAA Swimmer of the Year. Add two Olympic gold medalists. Mix at high speed and gradually add eight returning All-Americans and stir in talented freshmen. Salt to taste.

Throw it in the pool, and you've got the Cal women's swimming team.

Needless to say, the Bears feature some of the nation's top talent. Most notable is sophomore Natalie Coughlin, whose effortless speed has accumulated more awards and records in one year than any athlete in history.

Last season Coughlin won three different events at NCAAs and set new records in each, earning her the NCAA Swimmer of the Year award. She won all fifteen dual-meet races she competed in last season, nabbing herself Pac-10 Swimmer of the Year honors.

"Natalie will again swim a lot of different events for us," head coach Teri McKeever said. "Natalie is a superstar, but she is very much a team player. She gives us so much flexibility. It allows the team to be versatile."

In more recent news, Coughlin won the world championship in the 100-meter back at the World Championship held this summer in Japan and won five different events at the recent Texas Invitational.

Coughlin is far from the only superstar on the team, however. The Bears also feature the talents of two different Olympic gold medalists, junior Staciana Stitts and junior transfer Ashley Whitney.

Stitts won her gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney as a member of the U.S. 400-meter medley relay team, and Whitney nabbed her gold in 1996 as a member of the U.S. 800-meter freestyle team in Atlanta.

Stitts is also the team record holder in both the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke events, and Whitney transferred from national champion Georgia where she earned All-American honors on the 800-free relay and the 1,650 free.

It's mot like spectacular awards are all Cal has to offer, however. The Bears feature a large and talented cadre of returning athletes and the energy and zeal of ten new swimmers.

Five additional All-Americans come back to the program-senior Alice Henriques, junior Michelle Harper, and sophomores Danielle Becks, Natalie Griffith, and Kyoko Yokouchi.

Henriques has led the Cal team as a backstroker and butterflier for the past few years and holds the team's sixth-best all-time mark in the 200 back. Both Harper and Becks are strong sprinters for the team, and Griffith swims middle-distance freestyle. Yokouchi is a talented medley athlete who also bolsters the Bears' backstroke events.

The coup for head coach Teri McKeever was her crop of ten freshmen.

"We have a number of people who are solid in a variety of strokes and distances," said McKeever. "Our freshmen are a group with a lot of potential. They are looking forward to competing in a top program and their roles will definitely develop as the year goes on."

Cal also features a strong diving program. This year's squad will be led by Senior Emily Schum, juniors Christina Flynn and Amanda Urioste, and sophomore Danielle Sermer. The team is joined by freshmen Alyson Borawski, Nicole Christensen, and Caitlin Shreve.

The Bears will need the talent, and especially the numbers, brought by this year's freshman class. Despite all its speed, Cal was hamstrung in Pac-10 competition last year by a lack of bodies that should be offset by this year's larger roster.

Not to say it'll be easy-the Pac-10 features a host of top-flight programs, including No. 1 Stanford, No. 4 Arizona, No. 8 Arizona State, No. 10 USC, and No. 11 UCLA.

The Bears enter the season ranked sixth in the nation, coming off an even 2-2 record in the fall. Cal's true promise was apparent in their competition with defending national champion Georgia, which the Bears lost 152.5-150.5.

Pac-10 competition opens up Jan. 25 as Cal hosts Arizona State at 1:00 at Spieker Pool. The Bears will host Arizona the following day with the starting gun sounding at noon.


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