As the 2008-2009 men’s swimming and diving season opens, change is evident at Valparaiso University as the Crusaders get ready to dive into the pool. First year head coach Howard Hunte takes over the Brown and Gold program that finished in sixth place in the Horizon League one year ago.
Hunte returns seven letterwinners from last year’s squad, including six of whom rank among Valpo’s top-10 all-time in various events. He also has six freshmen, several of whom should make an immediate impact with the Crusader program.
Senior Adam Jajtner holds three individual school records in freestyle events and looks to lead the way for the Crusaders. A distance specialist, Jajtner set the 1650 free record as a junior after posting school marks in both the 500 and 1000 as a sophomore. Jajtner also has the fifth fastest mark all-time in the 200 free, showing his versatility among events. The senior’s ability has also shown thus far in his career in relay events, as he has helped post new school marks in the 400 and 800 events as well.
In the sprints, sophomore David Sivak should pace Valpo again this season. In his rookie season in a Brown and Gold suit, he turned in the second fastest 50 and 100 free times in school history.
The middle distances should see Blake Edwards leading the way for the Crusaders. He ranks among the school’s top-10 performers in every freestyle event ranging from the 100 through the 1650, and along with Sivak, was also on the record-setting 400 free relay last year.
Sophomore James Shang also returns for the Crusaders, adding depth to the sprint events. The team’s most improved swimmer last season, the Shanghai, China native competed in the 50, 100, and 200 freestyle in his first collegiate season.
Several freshmen will also be called upon to step in and contribute in freestyle races this season. Victor Sikorski was the Indiana state champion in the 50 free for Wheeler High School and finished sixth in the state in the 100 free. He should make an immediate impact for the Crusaders.
Trevor Trimpe also had a great deal of high school success that he hope to carry over to Valpo. Trimpe was the Olympic Athletic Conference champion in the 200 freestyle twice swimming for Connersville High School and also won the 500 free title as a junior.
Austin Hunter and Thomas Patrick also look to add depth for the Crusaders in the freestyle events. Hunter swam for the YMCA Wave where he was a member of the 200 free relay that finished 14th at the national meet. Patrick helped lead Arrowhead High School to a 28-5 dual meet mark over his final three years in high school.
Kyle Verage will lead the backstroking corps for the Crusaders in 2008-2009. A senior, Verage moved into the top-10 all-time for the Brown and Gold in both the 100 and 200 events last year. He also showed off his ability to swim multiple events as he ranks 10th all-time at Valpo in the 200 individual medley as well.
A freshman Hunter will also be called upon to help the Crusaders score points in the back events.
Besides leading the backstroke, Verage will also be competing in the breaststroke this season. He swam the 100 breast last year and is one of two Crusaders that may compete in the events this year.
Trimpe, a very versatile swimmer, also will see some action in individual medley events this year. In high school, he swam the breaststroke leg of the medley relay, helping Connersville qualify for the state meet.
A senior should lead the Valpo attack in the butterfly for the 2008-2009 season. Ansel Hillmer holds the second fastest 100 fly time in Crusader history while ranking fourth all-time in the 200 event.
Freshman Nathan Brewer will lead the freshmen in the fly. A state qualifier in Indiana for Norwell High School, he also will compete in the individual medley. Hunter and Place also should see time swimming butterfly events for Valpo this season.
A pair of divers will look to score points for Valparaiso this season. Kurtis Malone had a solid freshman season a year ago, scoring the third highest total for a Crusader diver in school history with a mark of 248.50 on the one-meter board. He also cracked the top-10 all-time on the three-meter.
Freshmen Riley Albers also will compete on the boards for the Brown and Gold. He will be diving for the first time after making the transition from gymnastics.
The 2008-2009 season should be an exciting one for the Brown and Gold as the Crusaders continue to rewrite the all-time lists. With a new head coach and a nice blend of experienced returnees and talented newcomers, hopes are high at Valparaiso. The Crusaders have five home meets scheduled at the Athletics-Recreation Center as part of the dual meet schedule with the focus on being prepared for the Horizon League Championship February 25-28, this year held in Milwaukee, Wis.