There were so many positives that came out of the 1997 season for the California women's swim team, coaches Teri McKeever and Michael Walker can't help but smile when they think of the prospects for 1998.
The Bears continue to thrive under McKeever and Walker's guidance and last year reaped the benefits of the team's commitment to excellence in both athletics and academics. Athletically, Cal finished ninth at the NCAA Championship, had five All-Americans, four school records were set and the team finished with a school-record 13 dual meet wins and had upset victories over Michigan and UCLA. Academically, the Bears had a team GPA of 3.425, the nation's fourth-best and the highest team GPA of any team finishing in the Top 10 at the NCAA Championship.
And, the best part about these successes is that Cal returns virtually its entire squad from '97.
"The seasons build on each other and we have been able to improve because we have focused on the individual steps inside a group dynamic," said McKeever. "As a team, we try to focus on the process, and we believe if you focus on the process, the results will take care of themselves."
"We try to get our swimmers to take daily steps to improve and take individual responsibility within a team setting," added Walker. "At Cal, we are working to create an environment that will allow a swimmer to be successful. We believe in the development of the total person, both athletically and academically."
Athletically and academically, the Bears will have a lot going for them with the return of six All-Americans--Marylyn Chiang, Elli Overton, Waen Minpraphal, Anya Kolbisen, Nicole Omphroy and Kristin Imwalle.
Chiang, a junior standout, had one of the best NCAA meets in Cal history as she helped set three school records, placing second in the 100 back with a school record 53.29, third in the 200 back with the school's second-best all-time mark of 1:56.30 and fourth in the 200 IM with a school record 1:58.81. Chiang also swam the backstroke leg of the Bears 400 medley relay team which set a school record with a time of 3:43.50. She was named team MVP for the second year in a row.
An outstanding addition for Cal last year was the arrival of Elli Overton. A member of the Australian National Team and a 1992 and 1996 Olympian, Overton joined the Bears in January and made an immediate contribution, earning All-America honors by placing fourth in the 400 IM at the NCAA Championship with a school record time of 4:13.06. She also placed sixth at the NCAAs in the 200 IM with a career-best 1:59.82, swam the breaststroke leg of Cal's school record setting 400 medley relay and anchored the 800 free relay. Overton, a sophomore, has been selected as one of the Bears team captains for the 1997-98 season.
Another top performer for Cal last year as a freshman was Waen Minpraphal. Minpraphal is a two-time Olympian as a member of the Thailand National Team and swam the butterfly leg of the Bears school record 400 medley relay team. She also earned honorable mention All-America honors, placing 10th at the NCAA meet in the 200 fly and was a member of Cal's 200 and 400 medley relays, and 400 free relay.
Anya Kolbisen excelled as a newcomer last year, as well, earning All-America honors as a member of the Bears 800 free relay which placed seventh at the NCAAs. Kolbisen was also a member of Cal's 400 free relay team (10th at the NCAAs) and over the season broke into the school's all-time Top 10 list in the 100 free (6th), 50 free (7th) and 200 (10th). She was named the team's Most Improved Swimmer.
Nicole Omphroy is yet another one of the Bears top young swimmers. Omphroy was a member of all of Cal's relay teams at the NCAA meet and swam the freestyle leg on the school record setting 400 medley relay. She also earned All-America honors on the Bears 800 free relay team that finished seventh in the nation.
Junior Kristin Imwalle is an outstanding distance freestyler who earned honorable mention All-America honors as a freshman in 1996, competing in the 800 free relay and swimming the breaststroke leg on the 400 medley relay. Imwalle is on the Bears all-time Top 10 list in the 1650 free (5th), 1000 free (6th) and 200 back (10th).
Besides the six returning All-Americans, McKeever's squad has several other swimmers who are sure to play key roles this season. Junior team captain Katie Aldworth has been a first alternate for the NCAA meet in the 200 IM for the past two years and has the school's seventh-best all-time mark in that event (2:02.69). As a freshman last season, Jenni Brelsford established herself as one of school's top breaststrokers, cracking into Cal's all-time Top 10 list in the 100 (5th, 1:03.85) and 200 breast (9th, 2:18.84).
The Cal coaches are also extremely excited about the arrival of freshman recruits Hanna Jaltner, Adrienne Mattos, Haley Cope and Courtney Duncan. Jaltner, a member of the Swedish National Team, is an outstanding breaststroker and was a B finalist (15th) at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in the 100-meter breast. Last year, she was ranked Top 10 in the world in the 50-meter breaststroke. Mattos, from Mountain View, will step in and be one of the Bears leading sprint freestylers. She had the nation's top times in the 50 free (23.03) and 100 free (50.05) last year and was the Central Coast Section Champion. Cope and Duncan will also have a chance to help Cal right away as Cope has solid high school times in the 100 back (56.56) and 50 free (24.00), and Duncan had a time of 2:02.61 in the 200 back.
The following is an event-by-event look at the 1997-98 Golden Bears.
Chiang placed fourth at the NCAAs in the 200 IM with a school record 1:58.81, which was the first Cal women to swim the 200 IM under 2:00.00. She also broke the school record in the 100 back (53.29) and was the seventh-highest individual scorer at the '97 NCAA meet. Chiang is on the Cal all-time Top 10 list in seven different events.
Overton set the school record in the 400 IM (4:13.06) at the NCAAs, placing fourth. She also placed sixth and swam under 2:00.00 in the 200 IM (1:59.82), and swam the breaststroke leg on the Bears school-record 400 medley relay team. Overton has already cracked Cal's all-time Top 10 list in five events.
Junior Katie Aldworth has barely missed qualifying for the NCAAs the past two seasons in the 200 IM, where she has a top time of 2:02.69, seventh-best all-time Cal mark. Aldworth also has a solid time of 4:21.35 in the 400 IM. Sophomore Waen Minpraphal swam the butterfly leg on the Bears school record 400 medley relay and has already entered the Cal all-time Top 10 list in the 200 fly (3rd), 100 fly (7th) and 200 IM (9th, 2:03.28). Minpraphal won the gold medal in the 400-meter IM (4:54.31) and a silver medal in the 200-meter IM (2:19.38), at the 1995 Southeast Asian Games, establishing Thailand national records.
Another IMer who will provide depth for the Bears will be junior Cheryl Murphy, who has bests of 4:23.95 in the 400 IM and 2:04.74 in the 200 IM.
Kolbisen burst into the college scene in fine fashion last season, swimming lifetime-bests in the 50 free (23.52, seventh-best all-time Cal mark), 100 free (50.82, sixth-best all-time Cal mark) and 200 free (1:49.04, 10th-best all-time Cal mark), and earning All-America honors as a member of the Bears 800 free relay.
Omphroy was also impressive as a freshman, swimming the freestyle leg in Cal's top 200 and 400 medley relay teams, and was a member of the school's dual meet-record 800 free relay. Individually, she had a career-best 50.92 in the 100 free, the eighth-best all-time Cal mark.
Mattos has outstanding credentials coming into the Bears program, with some of the nation's leading prep times in the 50 free (23.03) and 100 free (50.05) last year.
Other freestyle sprinters for Cal will include senior Liz Rehrmann (23.71, 50 free and 52.37, 100 free) and sophomore Katie Lowes (23.94, 50 free and 51.95, 100 free).
The leader of Cal's distance freestyle events will be junior All-American Kristin Imwalle, who has a lifetime best of 16:31.82 in the 1650 free. Imwalle also has a lifetime best mark of 4:52.51 in the 500 free and 1:51.95 in the 200 free. Junior Margie Hollister and senior captain Erin Jesfjeld are also expected to contribute in the distance freestyle.
Another strong breaststroker for Cal is sophomore Jenni Brelsford, who excelled last year as a freshman. Brelsford had the team's top mark in the 100 breast (1:03.85, fifth-best all-time Cal mark) and second-best mark in the 200 breast (2:18.84, ninth-best all-time Cal mark).
Two other leading breaststrokers for the Bears will be sophomores Amy Simpson and Christina Giovan. Simpson has bests of 1:04.90 in the 100 breast and 2:24.70 in the 200 breast. Giovan's top marks include 1:14.08 in the 100-meter breast and 2:39.10 in the 200-meter breast.
Freshman Haley Cope and junior Giana Johnson should also help the Bears in the backstroke. Cope has a prep best of 56.56 in the 100 back. Johnson had some key swims last season and has bests of 57.68 in the 100 back and 2:04.13 in the 200 back.
Two more backstrokers who will provide Cal with depth are senior captain Katie Reding and freshman Courtney Duncan. Reding has swam a 59.04 in the 100 back and 2:04.92 in the 200 back. Duncan has prep bests of 58.00 in the 100 back and 2:02.23 in the 200 back. Sophomore Dena Lofthus will also see action in the backstroke events.
Minpraphal had an impressive freshman year, swimming the butterfly leg on the Bears school record 400 medley relay. She also earned honorable mention All-America honors by placing 10th at the NCAAs in the 200 fly with a career-best 2:00.48, the third-best all-time Cal mark. Minpraphal had the team's top time in the 100 fly (55.59, seventh-best all-time Cal mark), as well.
Diamond could be another Cal standout as she has prep bests of 55.70 in the 100 fly and 2:01.30 in the 200 fly. Last season, she had NCAA consideration times in both the 100 and 200 fly. Hermann will also add strength to the Bears in the butterfly. Although she was sidelined the majority of last season with mononucleosis, Hermann was a Senior National finalist in 1996 and has prep bests of 56.11 in the 100 fly and 2:02.20 in the 200 fly.