CLEVELAND, Ohio – According to polls of Horizon League head coaches, the Cleveland State University men's swimming & diving team was selected as the preseason favorite in the League in 2018-19 while the CSU women's squad was projected to place second.
It marks the first time that the Viking men have earned the first-place designation since the League began producing preseason polls. It is also the highest spot the CSU women have ever garnered in a preseason poll.
Cleveland State, which earned four first-place votes, edged out Oakland, with two first-place votes, for the top spot on the men's side. Oakland was picked second and was followed by Green Bay, IUPUI, UIC and Milwaukee.
The Golden Grizzlies were picked as the unanimous favorite on the women's side ahead of CSU. Milwaukee came in third and was followed by IUPUI, UIC, Green Bay and Youngstown State.
The Cleveland State men finished in second place at the League Championships for the third consecutive season in 2017-18 with 665.5 points. The Vikings have increased their point total in each of the past three League meets and the margin of victory (66 points) at last year's meet was the smallest in the League since 2011.
Six Viking men surpassed NCAA qualifying standards at the Horizon League Championships, and all of them return for the 2018-19 season. Sophomore Dominik Niedzialek broke the school record in the 200 backstroke and also swam on the record-breaking 800 freestyle relay. Senior Jared Stergar posted a trio of second-place individual finishes at the League meet, registering NCAA cuts in all three events. Senior Jason van der Touw, who also swam on the 800 free relay team that broke the school record, and juniors DJ Arslanian and Tyler Stevenson all posted NCAA cuts with their efforts at the League meet.
Senior Sean Mulvin and junior Erwan Mahoudo both return after swimming on the aforementioned 800 free relay team while sophomore Matt Akers had a standout rookie season on the diving board. Akers competed at the NCAA Zone Championships last season and was the top freshman finisher in both the 1-meter and 3-meter events at the League meet.
The Cleveland State women have jumped up two spots at the League meet in each of the past two years. Doing so again in 2018-19 would result in the Horizon League Championship trophy coming to Cleveland. CSU finished third last season with 586 points, only seven points out of second place. The Viking women have also increased their point total in each of the past three seasons.
Cleveland State will be led on the women's side by the reigning Swimming & Diving Athlete of the Year Molly McNamara. McNamara, who also earned HL Female Scholar-Athlete of the Season honors last year, swept the butterfly titles at the 2018 League Championships, both in NCAA qualifying times. She broke school records in all three of her individual events and surpassed the League record in the 200 fly.
Senior Cassandra Oltman and sophomore Lexie Kostelnik own school records in the 200 backstroke and 1650 freestyle entering the season after breaking the old marks during the HL meet. CSU also returns three of the four swimmers that set schools records on both its 200 medley relay (Oltman, Gracyn McQueary and McNamara) and 800 freestyle relay (Irena Weclawiak, Claudia Zido and Gabriella Marinelli). Marinelli had a trio of top-10 finishes at last year's League meet while Alana Cartwright had three top-eight efforts as a rookie at the 2018 League Championships.
IUPUI is hosting the 2019 Horizon League Championships Feb. 13-16.
Cleveland State will be back in action Oct. 12-13 at the Akron Zips Classic.
2018-19 Horizon League Men's Swimming & Diving Preseason Poll
School – Points (First-Place Votes)
1. Cleveland State – 34 (4)
2. Oakland – 32 (2)
3. Green Bay – 20
4. IUPUI – 19
5. UIC – 14
6. Milwaukee – 7
2018-19 Horizon League Women's Swimming & Diving Preseason Poll
School – Points (First-Place Votes)
1. Oakland – 49 (7)
2. Cleveland State – 41
3. Milwaukee – 33
4. IUPUI – 25
5. UIC – 23
6. Green Bay – 18
7. Youngstown State – 7