Florida Gulf Coast Kicks Off 2015-16 Season at All Florida Invite
By George Nunnelley
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Coming off a record-setting season during which the Green and Blue finished in a program and mid-major best 26th place at the 2015 NCAA Championships and qualified for its first ever NCAA relay final, the FGCU swimming & diving program officially opens the 2015-16 season at the three-day All Florida Invite, beginning Friday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla.
Five teams will join the Eagles in the pool this weekend, including Florida State, Miami, Towson, Villanova and host Florida. The invite is shaping up to be a battle for state supremacy as all four representatives from the Sunshine State finished in the top 26 at last year’s NCAA Championships.
“We’re excited to get the season started at the UF Invitational this weekend,” said FGCU head coach Neal Studd. “It will be a big test for our newcomers and a good opportunity for them to see what Division I swimming is all about at an early stage in the season. The coaches are excited to learn as much as we can about our new class this weekend, which will speed up the learning process for both us and them. It’s a talented group, and we’re excited to see how they do as a group as how tough they can be.”
The weekend’s meet marks the sixth consecutive year the Eagles have competed in the invite, finishing third in the previous four years and fourth in 2010. A season ago, FGCU finished ahead of in-state foes FSU and Miami and behind eventual NCAA champion California and ninth-place finisher Florida.
Entering the season, Studd welcomes 17 newcomers to this year’s roster and returns an equal number of veterans, led by NCAA participants Katie Armitage (Bushey, United Kingdon/Queens School Bushey), Rebecca DeRogatis (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Indian River State College), Sara Hamilton (Stonehaven, Scotland/Mackie Academy), Kristin Julien (San Fernand, Trinidad and Tobago/St. Stephen’s College) and Yee Wong (Hong Kong, China/Diocesan Girls’ School).
After becoming the program’s first ever relay quartet to qualify for an NCAA Championship final event, Armitage and Julien return to the Eagles as First Team All-Americans. Joined by the departed Emma Svensson and Kira Toussaint, the 200 freestyle relay team touched the pads in a time of 1:37.55 and finished eighth in the championship meet, earning FGCU 22 of its program-record 37.5 points.
A crop of 17 newcomers, highlighted by freshman Elise Haan (Naples, Fla./Gulf Coast HS),Katie Latham (Deal, Kent, United Kingdom/Sir Roger Manwood’s School) and junior transfer Barbara Caraballo (Ponce, Puerto Rico/Indian River State College), will likely play a key role for FGCU during the 2015-16 season and will waste no time in showcasing their abilities as 16 are scheduled to compete this weekend.
Haan, an eight-time Florida state champion and four-time Naples Daily News Swimmer of the Year, finished third in the 100 backstroke (1:01.67) at the 2014 Speedo Junior National Championships. She competed at the 2012 Olympic Trials and is likely to return to the 2016 Olympic Trials next spring.
Caraballo, the 2015 NJCAA Female Swimmer of the Year at Indian River State College, won the 200 and 400 IM events at the 2015 NJCAA Swimming & Diving Championships. She also contributed to the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay victories.
Latham, a likely candidate to fill the shoes of Svensson in the freestyle, has qualified for the British Championships every year since 2011 and also participated in the 2012 Olympic Trials. She represented Great Britain in the 2013 and 2014 European Junior Championships, taking the silver medal in the 400 freestyle relay with FGCU teammate Linda Shaw in 2013.
Studd, who was named the 2015 CCSA Coach of the Year for the fifth time in his tenure at FGCU, has added volunteer assistant Andrew Edbauer to his staff for the 2015-16 season, joining assistant coach Amanda Smith and diving coach David Boyko. Edbauer, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., was member of the Canisius College men’s swim team from 2010-14. During a four-year collegiate career, he was a finalist in the 200 breaststroke in 2012, and the 100 and 200 breaststroke in 2013. Prior to joining the Green and Blue family, Edbauer served as the assistant coach for Canisius High School in Buffalo, N.Y., and also served as an assistant coach for the Independent Health YMCA Sharks.
Upon returning from Gainesville, the Eagles will hold the Blue Green Scrimmage at the FGCU Aquatics Complex on Saturday, Sept. 26 at 10 a.m., before continuing their regular-season schedule with the two-day FGCU Classic, beginning Friday, Oct. 2 at 5:30 p.m.
For up-to-date coverage of FGCU women’s swimming and diving, follow us on Twitter @FGCU_WSWIM and visit www.FGCUAthletics.com where full recaps and results will be available.
FGCU is led by Neal Studd, who has garnered five CCSA Coach of the Year awards, won six CCSA Championships (2009-13, 2015) and guided the Eagles to a 28-1 (.966) CCSA all-time record since FGCU started its program in 2007. In just four years of postseason eligibility, Studd has coached NCAA Championship Meet qualifiers and competitors each of the four years, with 2015 yielding the best results to date as the Eagles finished a mid-major best 26th and produced three CSCAA All-America honorees.
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
Friday, Sept. 18:
Prelims 10:00 a.m., Finals 7:00 p.m.
200 Free Relay
1 Meter Diving
400 Medley Relay
Saturday, Sept. 19:
Prelims 9:00 a.m., Finals 4:00 p.m.
200 Medley Relay
3 Meter Diving
800 Free Relay
Sunday, Sept. 20:
Prelims 9:00 a.m., Finals 4:00 p.m.
400 Free Relay
Florida Swim Network