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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

By Bethany Bradsher

Swimmers battle through foes, flu

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

Most collegiate coaches combat two primary foes during the course of a season: Opposing teams and injuries.

Add East Carolina's Rick Kobe to the coaches who would add viral illnesses to that list this fall.

Some of the Pirate swimmers and divers have been felled by the H1N1 virus and others by different sicknesses, but the effect through the early part of ECU’s season has been to deplete the team’s ranks and force freshmen to carry more responsibility.

“We’ve had 20 percent or more of our kids sick for over a month,” Kobe said. “We get five kids back and five kids leave. We haven’t been at full force yet.”

ECU's talent supply may be thinned by the bugs running through the squad, but that hasn’t kept the swimmers and divers from compiling several notable accomplishments in the past week.

Sophomore diver Megan Coyne was named the Conference USA Diver of the Week for two consecutive weeks, and her teammate, senior Rachel Blue, was named Swimmer of the Week in mid-October.

Blue, a senior from Myrtle Beach, won the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle at both of the dual meets, and Coyne broke two one-meter records (ECU’s and Davidson pool’s) with her one-meter dive score of 309.08. Coyne has already qualified for the NCAA Regional Zone Championships in both the one-meter and three-meter competitions.

The team also took a whirlwind road trip to the western part of the state last weekend and came home with two dual meet victories. On the journey, the men and women swept first Gardner-Webb and then Davidson, leaving a season-opening defeat at North Carolina as their only loss so far.

“The kids were tough, and it was an eye opener for some of the freshmen to see what it’s like to go on the road and compete,” Kobe said.

As those new swimmers have undergone their collegiate swimming initiation, several have stood out as immediate contributors and future stars for the Pirates. For the women, Hannah Lee of Wake Forest is ECU’s top competitor in the 200-yard fly, and Holly Berenotto has emerged as a threat in the distance events. Kayla Ford, a backstroker from Wilmington, has surprised Kobe and others by emerging as the Pirates’ fastest swimmer at both the 100 yards and 200 yards.

The outstanding newcomer on the men’s team to this point has been Chris Borysewicz, a sophomore transfer from J. Sargent Community College in Richmond who Kobe describes as “a jack of all trades” and has already posted top-two finishes in butterfly and freestyle events.

Meanwhile, veterans like Thiago Cavalcanti give the program its backbone, with times that keep getting faster. At the Davidson meet, Cavalcanti beat the next-fastest finisher by four seconds to win the 500 free in 4:41.94. A junior from Brazil, he already owns four varsity records and two Most Outstanding Male Swimmer awards.

“He’s already way ahead of where he was last year, and we think he’s got a real shot at making a couple of his NCAA cuts,” Kobe said.

Another swimmer who has surpassed expectations and stepped up as a team leader is junior Andrew Stoker, who placed first against North Carolina in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 50.71.

Even with its early successes, ECU swimming is really just getting started. The team’s season continues this weekend at home with a quad-meet against Campbell, Marshall and Towson and doesn’t end until the Conference USA championships in late February.

Along the way, the Pirates will have a chance to test their mettle at venues like South Carolina (the Gamecock Invitational in November) and North Carolina State in January.

E-mail Bethany Bradsher

Bethany Bradsher Archives

10/21/2009 02:30 AM

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