With an expanded roster and a deeper pool of talent, the Wildcat women's swimming team hopes to compete on the national stage like never before.
Between 2006 and 2008 Northwestern's roster nearly doubled in size. For years the Wildcats had been competing — and earning national rankings — with only 15 to 20 swimmers, half that of other schools. Now the roster includes 33 athletes.
"The difference is more focused recruiting," said Northwestern coach Jimmy Tierney, whose Wildcats finished fifth in conference and placed 19th overall at the NCAA Championships last year. "We've broadened our net."
Northwestern's 2009 roster features swimmers and divers from 22 states, including two from Alaska, plus others from Canada, the Bahamas and China.
Tierney can pitch recruits on Northwestern's academics and the prospect of participating in a rising program, but he also sells the idea of competing in the Olympics. He says the women's program has gotten a lot of attention from Matt Grevers' (C07) three-medal performance in Beijing (see "Northwestern Olympians," winter 2008), which proves that a Wildcat swimmer can make it on the international stage.
This year's leader on the women's side, freestyle swimmer Emily Wong, has her own Olympic aspirations for London 2012. Last summer Wong, a junior from Nepean, Ontario, won three gold medals at the TriNations Cup while representing Canada. Tierney says that performance has pushed Wong to the next level.
"Sometimes athletes just need to see themselves perform well before they can get that confidence," Tierney said. "Emily has that now and is a big reason why our team is doing this well."
— Ryan Morton (J08)