Gearing up for their final season in the Skyline Conference, the dynasty that is the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy swimming and diving program has set some clear and solid goals for the upcoming year.
Ranked 14th at their highest point by Collegeswimming.com, the 2005-2006 swimming and diving program marked one of their greatest seasons in USMMA history, racking up six NCAA qualifiers, nine NCAA cuts, five All-American certificates, 31 ECAC "open" cuts, breaking two Metropolitan Championship records, eleven Academy records and claiming their seventh straight Skyline Conference title.
For the men, 2006-2007 means a chance to win their eighth and final Skyline title, finish in the top-3 at the Metropolitan Championships, beat Coast Guard, and qualify at least three swimmers for the NCAA Championships in March.
For the men, seasoned veterans will be looking to take it up a notch and fill the void left by four-time career All-American and the 2006 Skyline Co-Swimmer of the Year, Andrew Dunlevy. Eleven freshmen have also been added to the roster to help fill in the space left by last year's seniors.
"Dunlevy was a huge factor in the program last year, both in the pool and out," remarked head coach Sean Tedesco. "However, we have brought in a good freshman class of swimmers to hopefully fill the void he and Chris Murray have left."
Key freshmen to watch for in the NCAA qualifying race are Steven Ingvoldstad, John Murphy and Scott Heilman.
Tedesco is optimistic that the trio will be key point scorers in dual meets for the Mariners as well as NCAA hopefuls.
"Hopefully, these three will help us make immediate impact at the Skyline and Mets conference championships," said Tedesco.
Ingvoldstad already meets NCAA qualifying standards in sprinting events. Murphy and Heilman will earn points for the Mariners in the backstroke and mid-distance freestyle respectively.
The 11 freshmen will be guided by the leadership and experience of the Merchant Marine swim team veterans.
Back for his third season with the Blue and Gray, is two-time All-American, two-time Academic All-American and eight-time NCAA qualifier, Jay Carpenter. Last season, Carpenter, Skyline Co-Swimmer of the Year with Dunlevy, broke 2 Academy records in the breast stroke and one in the 200-yard IM. In 2006-07, Carpenter has his site set on an NCAA Championship after falling two places short in the 100-yard breaststroke in Minnesota last year.
Carpenter will be joined on the leader board by seniors Will Ansell, Jesse Bowser, Bryan Vagts and sophomores Scott Pearson, Matt Ellison and David Scarberry.
Ansell, a senior captain, was a member of both NCAA qualifying relays last season. This year his goal is to excel individually as well, aiming for an NCAA qualifying time in the 50-yard freestyle and 100 breaststroke.
Adding to the senior leadership is Bowser, a versatile team player who continues to excel in many areas of the Mariner swim program. "I can put him in almost any event and he is guaranteed to be a key point scorer," remarked Tedesco.
Vagts has had an equally strong career and has geared his training for qualifying for the 400-yard IM and various distance events.
For the sophomores, Pearson will be vying for a shot at the 100-yard backstroke qualifying time. He was also a part of one of the NCAA qualifying relays last season.
Ellison, has been a consistent contributor in distance and butterfly events thus far in his early career. He will be aiming for a qualifying time in the 200-yard butterfly.
Rounding out the swimming veterans is Scarberry, another huge point source for the Mariners. His top-18 finish behind Dunlevy in the 1650-yard freestyle in last year's MET Championships was key in earning the Mariners their fourth place finish. His performance in the event was just short of an NCAA qualifying time. Tedesco is looking for big things from him in his sophomore season.
The men's team will also be looking for Justin Adams, Justin Backus and Scott Hughes to make a huge splash for the diving program. Last season was the first time some of them had seen the height of a diving board in their poolside career.
"These three gentlemen stepped up to assist our program last season helping us get some of those crucial points to put us above our competitors," remarked Tedesco.
"This season should be filled with a lot of new dives now that the guys are entering their second year of their diving career," said head diving coach Kevin Ryan. "All the Merchant Marine divers were told to get comfortable off the 3-meter board this year. I told them to build a tree house up there, as they will be spending a lot of time up there."
The Mariner diving team will be learning various new dives off the 3-meter board, most specifically an aerial dive, where most other schools lack consistency.
For the men, important dual meets outside of the conference will be against Stonybrook, Rowan and service academy rival Coast Guard.
"At the Stonybrook meet we will be able to test ourselves again on a Division I level early on," said Tedesco. "Hopefully, this will help us prepare for the Metropolitan Championships in February."
The men beat Rowan for the first time in school history last season. The Mariners are looking to repeat a similar performance this season in the pool on Jan. 13 at Rowan.
Merchant Marine faces service academy rival Coast Guard in New London on Jan. 20. In 2005-06, the Mariners missed beating Coast Guard by a mere 17 points.
After the Skyline Championships, the Mariners will aim their training toward the Metropolitan Championships on Feb. 16, and 16 men's teams, six of which will be from Division II. The teams to beat at the Metropolitan Championships will be Southern Connecticut State and C.W. Post for Division II and College of New Jersey and Rowan for Division III.