Women’s swimming and diving kicks off exciting season as 2 freshman Olympians join already talented team

Pierson Livingston, Sports Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the October 8 flipbook. 

This year with multiple returning stars, some fresh faces, including two Olympians, and head coach Carol Capitani back for her 10th season, Texas women’s swimming and diving expectations are high once again. 

Last season, Texas won its ninth consecutive Big 12 championship with ease after dominating in the pool. Not only did Texas win the meet, but its athletes also swept every single award given during the meet as well as set 16 new Big 12 Championship records. Following the Big 12 Championships, Texas had its first top three finish since 2001. 

This season, Texas will have its opening meet Friday at home at the Dust Off Your Boots Invitational. 

Returning to the team this year are multiple Longhorns who had exceptional seasons last year. Kelly Pash, the Women’s Swimmer of the Meet at last year’s Big 12 Championship, is returning for her third season at Texas and is ready to help lead the team to more victories with her first place finishes. 

Also returning to the pool will be seniors and All-Americans Julia Cook and Evie Pfeifer. Cook and Pfeifer both are back to swim the freestyle, with Pfeifer also competing in the back stroke and individual medley races. After setting records in the butterfly all season long, sophomore Olivia Bray returns after taking home the award for Newcomer of the Year in the Big 12 last season.

On the diving side of the pool, there are also some key athletes returning to keep an eye out for. Paola Pineda, a senior from Veracruz, Mexico, will be back hoping for another strong year of performances after her high finish at the NCAA championship last season. In addition, Bridget O’Neil returns to the platform for the 2021-2022 season after her own record breaking performance at the Big 12 championship. 

While Texas does have a lot of stars coming back to the pool, there are also some newcomers ready to make a splash after their Olympic debuts in Tokyo this past summer. Diver Hailey Hernandez entered her first Olympic games at the age of 18 and left with a top-10 finish in the 3-meter springboard final, all before even competing in a collegiate event. Fellow Olympian Erica Sullivan will also make her debut in burnt orange this week after her exciting summer where she won a silver medal in the 1,500-meter freestyle, finishing only four seconds behind swimming legend and fellow American Katie Ledecky. 

With Capitani back as head coach, hopes are high after she has led the Longhorns to a top-10 finish in eight of her nine seasons. This year, fans and athletes alike are hoping to honor Capitani’s 10th season with a national championship. 

This week at the Longhorns first meet of the season, it will be time for Texas to show that they are worth the hype they have been given. Expect the Longhorns to come out with fast times between the lanes and high scores from the air. 

The Dust Off Your Boots Invitational will be held at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center on Friday at 4 p.m. The meet will not be televised or streamed, but will be open to the public.