Members of the Kansas University women's swim team might feel an extra burden on their shoulders next season.
That's because the KU men's team was dropped last year for budgetary reasons.
"It will definitely affect everyone here," swim coach Cathy Burgess said. "It affects the whole athletics department when decisions like that are made. However, the women's team, I think, is fired up and ready to go. I want Kansas women's swimming to move on for (the men's team)."
While Burgess, along with aide Eric Eikenbary and diving coach Kevin Lawrence, face the pressure of coaching the only team participating in KU water sports, she's ready.
"We ARE Kansas swimming and diving today," Burgess said. "In the past, it was just men and then they added women and the future now is women and, hopefully, we will represent the swimming and diving community."
Even though the two teams competed in many of the same meets last year, they were separate programs with separate budgets.
"I think every year's different, so I don't look at it as some big change," Burgess said. "I think every year is a place for improvement. It's just a new year. We trained separately last year, so we'll train the same. We'll be the only ones in the pool. That's the difference."
Kansas lost only Carolyn Grevers and Jenny Fuller to graduation. Two of three divers Tammy Pace transferred are also returning. Grevers will be a graduate assistant coach this season.
"I'm just excited about numbers and the quality of people we have to represent KU," Burgess said. "I think we have a broad base and we definitely have strong areas. Our strengths are going to be in the freestyle events, anywhere from sprints to distance, individual medleys and butterflies."
Gwen Haley, last year's MVP and top scorer, leads the returners. She placed eighth in the 200 butterfly and fifth in the 200 medley relay at last season's Big 12 Tournament.
Other top returnees include junior Beth Schryer and co-captains Carrie Kirkham and Molly O'Connor. Haley, Schryer and Kirkham were all Olympics Trials qualifiers last year.
"We have good leadership, and we have great captains," Burgess said.
Diving will be another strength, as two red-shirts will join the pair of returning seniors co-captain Rebecca McFall and Patti Stringham in competing for Kansas.
"Now we have four possibilities of scoring and can do a lot more," Burgess said. "We're real talented in diving."
The seven incoming swimmers will also be counted on to help Kansas improve on last year's sixth-place finish in the six-team Big 12 Tournament.
"There's a lot of dependence on a lot of those newcomers," Burgess said. "They have some big shoes to fill, but they're talented enough to do it. Our newcomers are a good group athletically and academically so they'll fit in well. However, they will be new to it."
Academics are definitely a strength. KU's female swimmers finished with a 3.11 grade point average last spring and a 3.00 GPA last fall.
"There's nowhere to go but up and we know it," Burgess said. "We don't want to be sixth again."
The annual intrasquad meet will be Oct. 12 at Robinson Natatorium. The first conference competition will be the Big 12 Relays on Oct. 19 at Missouri.