Women's swim team finds strength in numbers

Last year, the team finished the regular season 8-2, placing third at NESCACs and eighth at Nationals, their best NCAA finish since 1999. The team’s biggest loss will be that of senior co-captain and two-time 200-yard butterfly national champion Morgan Bayer ’03.

Amherst is eager to build upon last season’s success. “I think we performed so well last season because we focused so much on team unity and cohesion,” said Liz Chiang ’05. ” And that’s carrying us into this year.”

This year, senior co-captains Jaime Fisher and Ashley Simonsen hope to lead the Jeffs to glory. “I think the outlook for our team is great. We have a really strong freshman class,” said Fisher. “Just in terms of numbers, this is the largest women’s team that I’ve been a part of in my four years at Amherst.” With 23 women, including veteran divers Kare Shaw and Kristin Boyd, the team is still smaller than those of NESCAC rivals, but remains big by Amherst’s standards.

The two toughest opponents will be Middlebury and Williams Colleges, the only two teams to defeat Amherst last year. “Both of these meets are home this year and that certainly gives us a big boost mentally,” said Fisher.

Middlebury defeated Amherst last season by a close score of 129-114. This season’s meet is on Dec. 6. “We’ve already done some race-pace sets in practices to gauge where we stand and we already have some girls swimming pretty fast,” said Fisher.

“There will be no question at the end of the season as to who is the better team,” said Chiang. The team’s goals this season are to “beat Middlebury in the regular season and beat them again at NESCACs,” she said.

Impressive performances are expected of several women. Jill Wyrick ’05 swims breaststroke and the individual medley and broke four school records last season. Rebecca Stein ’05 is a sprint and middle distance freestyler and took 15th in the 50-yard free at Nationals. According to Fisher, Wyrick and Stein “are really tough competitors and big point earners for our team.”

Fisher mentioned three first-years to watch: Piper Petterson in breaststroke and butterfly, Margaret Ramsey in middle distance freestyle and butterfly and Jasmina Cheung-Lau in butterfly and the individual medley. “We obviously have a lot of depth in the butterfly events this year,” said Fisher.

Other strong returnees include Hilary Stockbridge ’05 in breaststroke and the individual medley, Chiang in backstroke and sprint freestyle, Michelle McCreary ’05 in backstroke and Katie Massopust ’05 in middle and distance freestyle.

The season opens with two away meets during Thanksgiving break, at Union College on Nov. 22 and at Wesleyan University on Nov. 24. This season will be important for building up a young team. “I think we are going to have a very successful season and I really think we’re going to have our best meet against Williams in years this year,” said Fisher. “And just maybe next year is the year to reel them in.”