The ISU swimming and diving squad do not begin competition until October, but it is already clear who will serve as leaders for the team in 2014-15.
Team captains for 2014-15 were named at the squad’s annual banquet at the conclusion of last season in April. They include seniors Keely Hunt, Alexis Nash and Marissa Yontz.
The Redbirds’ top returning diver is senior All-American Wenting Zhang and the squad’s top returning swimmer is four-time Missouri Valley Conference champion Yontz.
Zhang was named ISU Diver of the Year at the team’s annual banquet in April, while Yontz was selected as ISU’s Most Valuable Swimmer.
Last season, Zhang became the first diver in school history to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Zhang earned an All-American honor with a 15th-place finish in the 1-meter dive and a sixth-place finish in the 3-meter dive at the NCAA Championships last season.
“What a way to end a tremendous season, with an All-America honor and the sixth-best dive in the country,” ISU diving coach Phil Hoffmann said at the conclusion of the NCAA Championships last season. “It was an outstanding season for [Zhang] and one for the record books. I couldn’t be more proud of her and the way she represented herself and Illinois State this week on a national stage.”
Zhang was also selected as the Missouri Valley Conference diver of the week seven times and broke the school record with a 343 score on the 1-meter dive and a 373.2 score on the 3-meter dive.
Yontz broke the school records in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 23.17, 100-yard freestyle with a time of 50.44, and 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:50.04 at the 2014 MVC Championships.
Yontz was also an All-MVC honoree and won four conference titles in the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle, and the 200 and 400-yard freestyle relays.
“What a championship meet for Marissa Yontz,” ISU head coach Steve Paska said at the conclusion of the MVC Championships last season. “She tied for first in the 50-yard freestyle, won the 100-yard freestyle and earned second place in the 200-yard freestyle. Yontz was also part of the winning 400 and 800-yard freestyle relays and on the second-place 400-yard medley relay.”
Yontz was also named the Missouri Valley Conference Swimmer of the Week once this past season and earned times at the Zippy Invitational that were school records at the time in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 23.52, 100-yard freestyle with a time of 50.66, and the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:50.06.
Another key returner for the Redbirds is sophomore Kristin Verkler, who was named the ISU Newcomer of the Year at the squad’s annual banquet in April.
Verkler placed second in the 100-yard butterfly and was part of the first-place 400-yard freestyle relay that broke the school record with a time of 3:24.56 at the MVC Championships.
In addition to Zhang, Yontz, Nash, and Verkler, the Redbirds return five other student-athletes that were named all-conference last season including junior Courtney Taylor, seniors Cecilia Holmes, Samantha Schuckles, and Katherine Nelson, and sophomore Laura Paskoff.