Swimming & Diving: Katie Mann among top performers for Wildcats at NCAA championships

By Rob Wilson
On March 28, 2014

Last weekend, junior Katie Mann of the University of New Hampshire women's swimming & diving team competed in the NCAA Women's Swimming & Diving Division I Championships at the University of Minnesota. Mann set personal bests as well as records in a successful year for the 2013-14 America East champions. 

Mann competed in the 200-yard individual medley, her optional event of the three-day meet. She set a new UNH and America East open record with a time of 1:58.78, placing 40th in the field. The mark edges out teammate Jenni Roberts' record by one hundredth of a second, which she set at the ECAC Championships in 2013.

Mann competed in her second of three events during the championship meet, the 400-yard individual medley. She powered through the water to register a time of 4 minutes, 10.39 seconds, placing 19th in a field of 51 participants.

Mann swam in her last of three events during the championship meet, the 200-yard breaststroke. She qualified for the event with a personal-best, program and America East record time of two minutes, 10.30 seconds at the conference championships on Feb. 16. The junior parted through the water to touch the wall in 2:12.11 seconds, placing 40th in the event.

UNH has consistently been sending at least one swimmer from the team every year the past few seasons, showing that the team is a sure contender with some of the best swimmers in the country. Mann made her second-consecutive trip to the big stage this year, improving from her last outing.

UNH head coach Josh Willman was pleased with Mann's performance, noting that being a part of the biggest swimming meet in the world this year was exciting.

"There were a lot of fast swimmers there, which is no surprise because it is the biggest swimming meet in the world," Willman said. "A couple of records were broken. America is the only country in the world that swims in yards, so a number of records were set. I thought Katie did well; she had a best time in the 200 IM, which became a new school record as well as an America East record. She finished 19th in that event, moving up four spots from when she qualified in 23rd place heading into the tournament."

The NCAA only takes the 39 top swimmers in each event, which further shows just how challenging it is to reach the tournament. According to Willman, what makes this meet more difficult than any other meet, like the American Olympic trials, is that you are not only competing against the best American college swimmers, but the best international college swimmers in the nation. Most of the girls that compete at this tournament are former Olympians, making the competition very tough across the selection of swimmers.

Out of the 200 Division I swimming and diving programs in the nation, only about 70 of these programs are represented at the NCAA's, with many schools bringing an average of four swimmers to the event.

The swimming and diving team is done for the season, which means a time to train for this year's summer meet. This year's class will be losing five key swimmers: Jenna Bull, Bernadette Byrne, Katie Keefer, Lauren McCandless and Jenni Roberts, giving way to a younger team.

According to Willman, New Hampshire has recruited three swimmers, and is talking to another four potential signees. Willman is trying to pursue as many recruits possible, in tandem with its scholarships.

"Right now it is just a period of time where the team is now training, in the weight room trying to get better and stronger for the summer meet," Willman said. "We have one swimmer left competing and that is junior Oneida Cooper, who is on the South African national team. She will be heading out later this week to South Africa for a meet in April. I wish her the best."

UNH aims to once again compete at a high level, separating the swimmers as the top competition in America East for next season. 

"The common goal is to do well at the conference level," Willman said. "Hopefully, we can take more people into NCAA's. It's been a great past season, though. I am very happy with how everyone competed, and the graduating class will surely be missed."

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