Swim & Dive Opens 2023-24 Season Friday in Wilmington
Wilmington, N.C. – South Carolina swimming & diving kicks off its 2023-24 season on the road this Friday, Sept. 29, traveling to Wilmington, N.C., to face UNCW. In its third season under head coach Jeff Poppell, the team looks for their third straight sweep of the Seahawks.
The meet will begin at 4:00 p.m. at the David B. Allen Natatorium. Admission to the meet is free. Those not in attendance can view a live stream of the meet via subscription on FloSports.tv.
This year, the Gamecocks welcome 32 newcomers to the team consisting of 25 freshman and seven transfers. Notable newcomers for the women’s team include CSCAA All-American Peyton Curry, three-time NCAA qualifier Duda Sumida, and 2023 WAC Swimmer of the Year Pia Muarry. For the men’s program, graduate transfer Ahmed Rateb highlights the group with his 2022 CCSA Swimmer of the Year honor as well as freshman Connor Fry who was recently named to USA Swimming’s Junior National Team.
Returning for the Gamecocks this year are program record holders Bella Pantano and Michael Laitarovsky. Both swimmers hold their respective program’s record in the 100 back. Pantano, a senior, has continually lowered the women’s program record throughout her career and led her team to another program record as the leadoff of the 200 medley relay at the 2022 SEC Championships.
Laitarovsky, a junior, has had a similar career as Pantano, having continually lowered his own program record throughout his time in the Garnet & Black. Like Pantano, Laitarovsky also led his team to a 200 medley relay program record – his coming at the 2023 SEC Championships. The Natanya, Israel, native earned a bronze medal at the SEC Championships in the 100 back and qualified for the NCAA Championships with his time of 45.27.
Also returning for the women’s team is 100 fly program record holder Nicholle Toh. Toh, in her third season with the Gamecocks, has proven herself as one of the team’s top swimmers in the butterfly stroke. Along with her record in the 100, she is the 8th fastest swimmer in program history in the 200 and swam the butterfly leg of the program record setting 200 medley relay in 2022.
For the men’s team, junior Wylie Kruse also returns. Kruse has proven himself as a high-production all-around swimmer after solidifying his spot in the record book three times during the 2022-23 season – fourth in the 200 IM, fifth in the 100 back, and second in the 200 back.
On the dive side of things, second-year coach Michael Wright is in a rebuild, having lost All-Americans Brooke Schultz and Manny Vazquez Bas upon their graduations and SEC medalist Sophie Verzyl as she takes an Olympic redshirt. Of Wright’s seven-member dive team, four members are newcomers, highlighted by freshman Max Spencer of Essex, England. Spencer holds a total of five national medals across both Junior and Senior level events and represented his home country of England at the Futures Cup.
Returning for the dive team is sophomore Charley Bayer who was named SEC Diver of the Week for week three of the 2022-23 season and made finals of the 3-meter event at the 2023 SEC Championships. For the women, junior Blair Isenhour, a 2023 NCAA Zone B qualifier returns.
Against the Seahawks, South Carolina’s men hold the lead in the all-time series 12-1 while the Gamecock women hold their lead 13-1. The men’s team’s only loss came in 2002 while the women’s was in 2011. The two teams have faced off seven times in the last decade with the Gamecocks sweeping all seven meetings.
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