LITTLE ROCK - The UALR swim team begins the 2012-2013 campaign Friday (Oct. 5) against the Mean Green of North Texas. It will be a quick turnaround as the Trojans host Tulane on Saturday (Oct. 6) for their annual "Think Pink" swim meet.
"We are excited to kick off what we expect to be a great season in the pool this Friday," head coach Amy Burgess said. "Although we are down slightly in our numbers, so far the team has shown great determination in practice and this is the best team cohesion I have seen in my time here.
"We expect great things this season and cannot wait to start competing," Burgess exclaimed.
UALR will be led by a trio of seniors that stayed with the program for three seasons after being a part of one of the biggest recruiting classes in school history. Amber Kelly (Juneau, Alaska) currently holds four school records in the 100 and 200 yard freestyle and butterfly while also a member of all five record-holding relay teams.
"Amber has had a huge impact in our program over her previous three years as she has set the tone for our 100 and 200 free and fly events," Burgess said.
Rounding out the senior class are Rebecca McEachern (Star City, Ark.) and Amy Tran (Medina, Tenn.). McEachern is mostly a sprinter in freestyle and butterfly while Tran swims butterfly and backstroke.
"Rebecca has come a long way from her previous experiences in swimming," Burgess said. "Amy, like McEachern, has grown tremendously in our program and has great drive and passion to see improvement.
"Our three seniors and team captains have come back with excitement and are doing a great job getting the team together in and out of the water. Building a team requires ladies to fight through the tough times and know how to celebrate the good. That is exactly what these three girls have done," Burgess added.
The junior class also holds a trio of members with Kara Raney (Kingwood, Texas) and sisters Hope and Holly Myers (Purvis, Miss.). Raney swims sprints in the freestyle and backstroke while Hope and Holly mostly compete in freestyle and backstroke.
"Besides Kara leading the way for our sprint free and back events, we also have Holly on the other end setting the bar for middle-distant free and back. IM and backstroker Hope had great summer training and is already showing signs of progress in the water," Burgess said.
Raney was a member of four record-setting relay teams while also holding the top mark in the 50-yard freestyle. Holly Myers holds the record in the 200 backstroke and 500 freestyle and was a member of the 800-yard freestyle relay team in 2012.
The sophomore class looks to make a splash during the 2012-13 season with Meghan Petersen (Scott, Ark.), Alexis Stone (McKinney, Texas) and Samantha Thompson (Longview, Texas). Petersen and Stone make up the primary breastroke contingent on the team while both also swim the IM. Thompson will swim freestyle.
"One of a coach's favorite things about sophomores is they are no longer freshmen. This class we will see a lot of improvement," Burgess explained. "Having the first year jitters out of their way, they are ready for the year ahead and have lots to prove.
"Meghan will be a big contributor in the breaststoke and 200 IM, while Lexie will expand her talents this season and help in a variety of events throughout the season. Samantha will again be competing distance free for us and is currently working through a knee injury," Burgess said.
UALR welcomes four new freshmen for the upcoming season that will have immediate impact on the program. The Trojans welcome two newcomers, Megan Scott (San Antonio, Texas) and Skye Stratten (Little Rock) who will focus primarily on diving in 2012-2013.
"On the boards we welcome Megan, who comes from a strong competitive diving background and will help us to start making a showing in our diving competitions. Skye is a local Little Rock girl who had been a swimmer but is going to try her hand in diving for us." Burgess said.
Rounding out the class will be Natalie Swindle (Hoover, Ala.) and Valeriya Teplova (Mariupol, Ukraine).
"Natalie is going to be a big contributor in our middle distance free, 200 back, and 200 fly events. Valeriya will have an impact in our sprint free events."
UALR will have the luxury of starting off its first two swim meets of the year off at home. The Trojans open up the season Friday (Oct. 5) with a battle against conference-foe North Texas at 2 p.m. The Mean Green finished third last season while UALR came in sixth at the 2012 Sun Belt championships.
Saturday (Oct. 6th) will be the first meeting between UALR and Tulane in the pool under coach Burgess.
"We have two tough openers this weekend with North Texas and Tulane," Burgess said. "It is a good way to start the season with another Sun Belt team and some competition we have not faced before. It will be a great test to see what the girls have to face at the end of the season at the Sun Belt Championship.
"We are excited to welcome both schools to Little Rock and hope to establish a yearly meeting between both squads," Burgess said.
On Saturday, the UALR swimming program will host its second annual "Think Pink Meet," which will help raise awareness for the fight against breast cancer. The team will also be accepting donations with all proceeds going towards research.
"As a female only team, breast cancer is an issue that hits close to home as it has or will affect many women. The team will be wearing pink caps to honor those who have been affected by this horrible disease," Burgess explained.
UALR takes the pool Friday at 2 p.m. against North Texas before completing the weekend Saturday at 10 a.m. against Tulane. Admission is free at the Donaghey Student Center.