NORTON, MA- For the first time in her Wheaton College tenure, fourth-year synchronized swimming head coach Rebecca Story leads a team that includes all of her recruited athletes, as eight swimmers representing six states hail from the Classes of 2012, 2013 and 2014.
With a squad devoid of seniors, Story has much to be excited about when talking about the future of the program. "This team has good chemistry and the morale is high," said Story. "We also started a new training program this year, which has worked really well. The women have noticed a huge difference in their skill. Everyone is showing a lot of progress so far."
Last season, Wheaton turned in its highest placement at a U.S. Collegiate Championship under Story, as the Lyons finished seventh. Wheaton posted five top-two placements, taking the runner-up spot at the combined Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship and East Collegiate Regional. At that meet, a Lyon trio routine upset Canisius College, which had been victorious in 32 routine competitions contested at the ECAC Championship and East Collegiate Regional meets between 2006 and 2009.
When asked to define a successful season, Story indicated a change this year, as her focus will be breaking things down and focusing on each athlete's skill level. "We've been doing skills tests where every four weeks they mark their legs with lines and we watch to see if they're getting higher and executing better. They know if they've improved or not, as they have real results based on their scores."
This year's Lyons are led by junior captain Christiana Butera (San Diego, Calif./Academy of Our Lady of Peace) and sophomore captain Christine Dyster (Tempe, Ariz./Corona del Sol). Butera, who was selected to represent the U.S. at the elite FINA World Aquatics Championships in July in Shanghai, China, is a returning all-collegiate team swimmer. She will swim solo, duet and team this season, while Dyster is a part of duet, trio and team.
Junior Anastasia Hare (Buffalo, N.Y./Buffalo Seminary), sophomores Rebecca Gordon (North Haven, Conn./North Haven), Elizabeth Watkins (Indianapolis, Ind./University High School of Indiana) and Kirsten Wendth (Waterford, N.Y./Shenendehowa), and freshmen Nicole Chicoine (Santa Rosa, Calif./Santa Rosa) and Holly Wagman (York, Pa./Dallastown Area) round out the team.
Gordon joins Butera as the team's soloists, while Butera and Wendth will side as duet partners. Also competing as a duet is Dyster and Wagman. Chicoine, Dyster and Wendth are slated to perform a trio routine.
For figures, with Butera making the national team, she will automatically move up to compete in elements under the A category. Gordon and Wendth fall under the B category, Chicoine, Dyster, Hare and Watkins will take part in C, while Wagman will swim in D. Four different Wheaton swimmers won C figures national championships in the last seven years.
The Lyons get underway by hosting its annual Wheaton Invitational beginning on Saturday. The team then heads to Ohio State University and Boston University before returning home to host the combined East Collegiate Regional and ECAC meet the weekend of March 5-6. This year's U.S. Collegiate Championship is slated to begin on March 17 in Buffalo, New York.