FAIRBANKS—There’s been a buzz emanating from the Patty Center for the past seven weeks or so and it’s all about the Alaska Nanooks swim team.
“We’re strong, deep, young and talented,” an upbeat Nanooks coach Scott Lemley said earlier this week as he discussed the 2012-13 edition of the Nanooks.
“What I’ve seen in the water the past seven weeks is pretty exciting,” Lemley said as the Nanooks prepared for this weekend’s season opening meets against California Baptist University. “The returning swimmers know what it takes and should be better than last year and the incoming class is every bit as strong.”
The Nanooks placed 15th at the NCAA Division II National Championships last year and if everything falls into place, Lemley feels the Nanooks have the makings to do much better than that in 2013.
“We have five to seven girls who could score points and then there’s the relays,” Lemley said. “If everyone has a good meet, I could see us easily being in the top 10. If everyone had a great meet, maybe even the top five”
The Nanooks open the season at 6 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday at the Patty Center against a Cal Baptist team Alaska has never beaten in a dual meet format.
“Cal Baptist beat us seven straight years, but we almost beat them in a dual meet format last year,” Lemley said. “The best way for us to start the season would be to beat them and carry that momentum through the entire season.”
The Nanooks registered seven All-American swims at the national championships last season and six of those were by returning junior Bente Heller from Germany, who also was the Nanooks Female Scholar Athlete last year.
Sophomore Margot Adams returns as a national runner-up in the 200-yard butterfly last year, while sophomores Danielle Lyons and Gabi Summers also return.
The foursome posted All-American honors in three relays and Heller was honorable mention in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle events.
“The returning swimmers give us a lot of experience, but they are still young,” Lemley said. “Danielle and Gabi could break through in individual events this year.”
Other returners for the Nanooks includes seniors Meghan O’Leary and Sarah Meierotto and sophomores Kendra Ashwell, Lauren Bailey, Genevieve Johnson, Lindsey Krause, Kelly Meierotto and Katelyn Oldenkamp.
Junior transfer Samantha Taylor, a transfer from Azusa Pacific, heads up the list of talented newcomers Lemley has added to his stable of veteran swimmers.
Taylor isn’t eligible to swim this weekend because of NCAA transfer rules, however Lemley said the school has applied for a waiver of the rule and he hopes Taylor will be eligible for the second semester.
Taylor finished second to Adams in the Blue/Gold pentathlon two weeks ago.
Lemley also is expecting big things from freshman Eileen Audette of Seward.
“She is phenomenal in the breastroke,” Lemley said. “Hopefully she will play a key role on one or both of our medley relays.”
Other talented newcomers include freshmen Linnea Doumas from Tucson, Ariz., Nina Mullin of Moss Beach, Calif., and McKinley Wallace.
When you mix it all together, the Nanooks could be ready to take the next step at the NCAA Championships.
“If we can qualify five or seven individuals, we could make a quantum leap,” Lemley said.
Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7581.