Oct. 9, 2013
By: Andrew Rich
By: Andrew Rich
FRESNO, Calif. -- The Fresno State women's Swimming and Diving program opens its 2013-2014 season this Friday and Saturday by hosting the Bulldog Invitational at the Fresno State Aquatics Center. The Bulldogs will be joined this weekend by national power California and Mountain West Conference foes Boise State and San José State.
Competition will begin at 4:00 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. on Saturday. The format this weekend will follow along closely to what the team will encounter at the end of the season when they compete in the Mountain West Championships.
"We're going to get to see a lot more events in the two days and that is a great place to start because that is how we finish at the end of the year," head coach Jeanne Fleck said. "Boise is one of the best teams in our conference. San José is new to our conference, but they are always great and even though Cal isn't bringing their top kids, the 10 they are bringing are faster than anything we will see."
Fresno State's most notable returnee will be senior Hannah Prigge. The diver from Rocklin, Calif is the lone returning NCAA-qualifier. Prigge qualified for the NCAA's last season by placing third in the platform dive at the Zone E Diving Regionals.
"That is a huge plus for our program," said Fleck of Prigge's accomplishments. "She has become a very well-rounded diver and she will be strong in everything."
Junior Lucy Titchin and sophomore Leah Hatayama return off of a relay team that took second last year at the MW Championships. Seniors Michelle Dockendorf and Brittany Buna will be counted on to score in the breaststroke and in distance races, respectively.
A returnee that the coaching staff was surprised by, but now expects big things from is sophomore Kelly Simmons. In last weekend's intrasquad meet she set a lifetime best time in the 500-Freestyle and now is considered the leader for the team in that event.
Fleck is also welcoming in nine freshman and the sixth-year coach is looking to get something from every single one of them.
"There isn't one that isn't not going to help us," Fleck said. "Esme Gullick, Hailee Baldwin, Kali Conlon and Shelbie Holden are probably our four most outstanding freshman in the sense that they will be impact players on our relays and in events we needed help in."
The large group of freshman will also provide much needed depth to what is already a very young team. 15 of the 24 members are freshman or sophomores this season.
"It's exciting because we are very young," Fleck said. "As a team built for dual meets and conference I feel that we are a much more well-rounded team this year than we what we were last year."
Another exciting aspect of this weekend will be the coverage of the meet provided by the Mountain West Network. The Bulldog Invitational will be the first swimming and diving meet that can be viewed on the conference's new network.
"This is really exciting for swimming and diving that we are getting that," Fleck said. "When we had our meetings we were the only swimming program that was going to have one on the Mountain West Network so that is pretty cool."
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