Courtesy: Spencer Farrin (Moscow, Idaho)
Second-year coach Mark Sowa gets the Vandal women started at Thursday's practice.
Swim & Dive hits open water
Courtesy: Idaho Athletic Media Relations
          Release: 09/06/2012
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By Anthony Kuipers
Media Relations Intern

The University of Idaho Swimming and Diving team is leaving the pool and braving the open water for a good cause on Saturday, Sept. 8.

The Vandals will take part in Swim Across America, an event that invites swimmers from around the country to compete in open-water races and raise money for cancer treatment and research.  Idaho will travel to Seattle to participate in a two-mile race at Lake Washington this weekend.  The proceeds from the event will go to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

Head Coach Mark Sowa said he and the other swim coaches were thrilled when SAA reached out to them.

“It is a tremendous opportunity for us to really give something back to the community and also really look to step up against a horrible disease that will touch all of these kids’ lives at some point,” Sowa said.

Sowa said his team was initially nervous about taking part in the open-water race, which he said will “challenge them in a way that they’ve never been challenged before.”

“This was something that wasn’t on their radar, but then once they learned a little bit more about Swim Across America and why we were doing this, I think they got really excited,” Sowa said.  “These are really good kids, their heart is constantly in the right place.  It’s just one more opportunity to prove that being a Vandal is more than just winning at athletics.  It’s being aware of the region, being aware of others and they love challenges, so they embrace it.”

Senior Kelsie Saxe said she is excited to not only contribute to a good cause, but to connect with her teammates.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for us to bond as a team early on and take this trip because that’s where a lot of the bonding happens, when you travel together and you compete together,” Saxe said.

The team hopes this first event will kick off their 2012-13 season in a positive way. Many key swimmers and divers are returning from last year including school record-holders Saxe, sophomore Rachel Millet, junior Paige Hunt and junior Lyndsay Williams. This group contributed to broken records in 12 events and helped Idaho earn a top-25 ranking among mid-major programs last season.

Sowa, who is entering his second season with Idaho, said he expects even bigger accomplishments from his team this season. 

“I’m fired up,” Sowa said.  “We’re going to be good.  We took a nice step forward last year and now it’s fun because people have expectations for us to be better and I love that. That’s not pressure, that’s what we want to be.  We want to be great.”

Millet, who had a standout freshman year in which she was named Western Athletic Conference Swimmer of the Week three times, said she feels more comfortable going into her second season.

“I’m really excited about this season, having another season under my belt and having experienced the WAC,” Millet said.  “I think I will be more prepared and I’m excited to be with my team now that I know everyone a lot better.” 

Idaho’s main goal is improving upon last year’s seventh-place finish at the WAC Championship.  Sowa said he expects more toughness out of his team when February rolls around. 

“They are going to be much more prepared for that meet and just the sheer length of it, the emotional rollercoaster that it is and being in a position to beat people,” Sowa said. “That was new to them last year.  It won’t be new this year and we’re very excited about that.”

The divers will be crucial in accomplishing that feat.  Hunt, who earned two WAC Diver of the Week awards last year, will lead a group that includes returning juniors Kelsi Potterf, and Mairin Jameson as well as two freshmen, Delaney Peugh and Allison Hodgin. 

Sowa said the divers trained extremely hard over the summer and believes their dedication, plus the added depth provided by Peugh and Hodgkin should lead to strong performances throughout the season.

Idaho also added a new member to the coaching staff in Scott Cameron, who joined the staff as an assistant coach in August. He was a volunteer assistant at the University of Michigan last year and coached the Club Wolverine Elite swim team, where he worked with several athletes who competed at the 2012 Olympic Trials.

Idaho’s first meet will be at home against Boise State on Oct. 6.
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