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Winter sports preview: swimming and diving

The men's and women's swimming and diving teams prepare for the upcoming season. (ONUsports.com

MEN'S TEAM:

The Ohio Northern men's swimming and diving team is looking to complete its "Decade of Excellence" in style by capturing its 10th consecutive Ohio Athletic Conference title in 2013-14.

The Polar Bear swimming and diving alumni have created a "Decade of Excellence" slogan as a way to celebrate the past successes of the program, and 10th year head coach Peggy Ewald is embracing that rallying cry as a collective team effort.

"The results over the past nine seasons have been a collective achievement by the men and women who committed to our program goals," Ewald said. "The talent level continues to climb, however the balance truly comes from the combination of talent, hard work, passion and the respect for 'team'. If we continue to broaden our landscape and prepare with focus the outcome will equal our best performances."

She welcomes back 15 lettermen from last year's squad that won the OAC crown by an impressive 236 points.

Add to the mix a talented group of incoming freshman and it's easy to see why optimism is abundant entering the season.

Ewald's men's squads have won the OAC title in each of her previous nine years at the helm.

"We have a freshman class with versatility, talent and great attitudes," Ewald said. "This, combined with our experienced returning team, should be a fun combination to watch. The key ingredient for us will be reaching beyond the comfort zone and our attitude towards change. The talent is there. We have the energy flowing; now we need to put the intensity into our preparation. If we do that, we will be prepared when it counts."

Senior All-American Jordan Breitigam returns to lead the Polar Bears in 2013-14 after being named the OAC Men's Swimmer of the Year.

Breitigam's garnering of the OAC Swimmer of the Year award marked the ninth consecutive year that a Polar Bear swimmer has won the honor.

At the OACs, he won three individual events and was on three winning relay teams, setting OAC and ONU records and surpassing NCAA qualifying marks in all six events.

Breitigam will enter his senior year as a 10-time OAC champion. Seniors Erik Arent and John Beaschler also return.

Arent was the 2011 OAC champion in the 200 fly and is a four-time All-OAC performer in the fly events.

Beaschler is a two-time OAC champion as part of ONU's 200 medley relay squads and is a seven-time All-OAC performer.

Juniors Spencer Franzoi, Brian Heilbronner, Christopher Hoffman, Kevin Krivanek, Jason Luthman and John Willamowski have combined to score 449 career points at the OAC Championships.

Franzoi, Heilbronner and Luthman are OAC champions, and Hoffman joins them as an All- OAC honoree.

Sophomores Jacob Croasdell, Tyler Lucian, Zack Martin, Mitchell Murphy, Sean O'Neill and Connor Wood also return after solid freshman campaigns.

The seven-man freshman class is very versatile and has a lot of talent to compliment the rest of the team. Look for a big finish this season for the Polar Bears.

"With tradition comes responsibility," Ewald said. "We have a complete coaching staff this season who collectively have knowledge, experience, talent and tenacity on their side.

"We have set forth many traditions over the past nine seasons and now we have the responsibility to uphold those and push beyond. We look to repeat as conference champions and look to be on the national stage at the NCAA Championships."

WOMEN'S TEAM:

The Ohio Northern women's swimming and diving is looking for its sixth consecutive Ohio Athletic Conference Championship crown and its seventh in the last 10 seasons in 2013-14.

The Polar Bears, under 10thyear head coach Peggy Ewald, welcome back 13 letter winners from last year's OAC Championship squad.

Add to the mix an outstanding incoming freshman class and it's easy to see why optimism abounds entering the 2013-14 season.

"Our women's team overall has great balance," Ewald said. "They are asking more of themselves. They have attained great focus in the classroom and want to bring that same focus in the pool.

"We have some repositioning to do, a few gaps to close, but the women have proven to be resourceful and willing to step up when needed. Repeating as champions gets tougher each season. It's a clean slate each year, forcing us to confront challenges head-on and overcome any roadblock in our way."

Senior Lindsey Rayhill is the most decorated of a strong senior class, posting 13 OAC championships in her career.

She won her third consecutive title in the 200 fly, shattering her own OAC and ONU record and besting the NCAA "B" Cut with an effort of 2:06.97.

She also won her third straight 100 fly crown in an OAC and ONU record and NCAA "B" Cut time of :57.11 and finished the meet with six OAC titles as she was part of ONU's winning 400 free, 800 free, 200 medley and 400 medley relay teams.

Seniors Rachael Aufdenkampe, Jamie Garbash, Jennifer Hartsel and Lauren Poll also return to join Rayhill as leaders of the squad.

Garbash and Hartsel are both 2-time All-OAC performers as part of ONU's 200 and 400 medley relay teams and Hartsel is also a two-time All-OAC honoree in the breaststroke events.

Aufdenkampe and Poll are both solid OAC-caliber swimmers and have combined to score 80 team points in their careers.

Four junior letterwinners return, led by 400 I.M. OAC Champion Taylor McCabe.

McCabe also earned All-OAC honors in the 200 I.M. and the 200 breast.

Erin Adkins, Katherine Lorson and Ashley Zoeller have scored 157 Championships points in the last two years.

The sophomore class of Abigail Barlage, Cassandra Hacker, Lindsey Inkrott and Allison Lohnes are also key components of the Polar Bears squad this winter.

A strong class of eight incoming freshmen will also contribute right away.

"The OAC has been changing in positive ways," Ewald said. "I look for each of the OAC swimming schools to have bigger and better teams this season. The competition level will increase an outcome goal that will undoubtedly move the conference forward. 

"Both of our men's and women's teams will need to seize every opportunity to improve both in and out of the water. We will pursue meeting our goals by deliberate practice and paying close attention every day to the way we prepare and attend to the details."

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