FAIRBANKS, Alaska, July 11. ALASKA Swimming head coach Scott Lemley announced the addition of Alaskan swimmer Erin Widby of Anchorage to the Nanooks squad for the 2007-08 season.
"Erin becomes our first Anchorage recruit which is huge for us," said Lemley. "There's always been an intense rivalry between Anchorage and Fairbanks teams at every level in every sport. Since UAA (University of Alaska Anchorage) has no women's swim team that rivalry actually hurts us rather than helps us. We need to be able to recruit Anchorage swimmers and hopefully Erin paves the way for us."
Widby originally was set to join Lemley's squad last fall, but decided that she wanted to focus strictly on academics in her first year of undergraduate study. While Widby was not practicing with the team, she stayed in touch with the water playing intramural water polo and working out on her own. She approached Lemley in the spring and informed him she was ready to take on the dual role as a swimmer and a student-athlete.
"Erin had been on my radar for a couple of years and we were all set to welcome her to the team last year," Lemley said. "At the last moment she decided to get a year of school under her belt before committing to the added pressure of being a collegiate athlete. I'm thrilled that she's elected to join us this year."
An East High School graduate, she lettered all four years for the Thunderbirds. She was voted MVP her junior year and the team captain her senior year. As a junior Widby was part of the 400 yd freestyle team that captured the region title. She posted a personal best time of 56 seconds in her leg of the relay.
"Erin is a very good sprint freestyler," Lemley said. "Her 50 and 100 freestyles will help us complete our two sprint freestyle relays. Adding her may well mean we'll be able to qualify both the 200 and 400 freestyle relays for nationals next year."
Widby also swam with the Northern Lights Swim Club for 13 years. In 2005 she was voted the most improved swimmer after setting a personal best of 25.2 seconds in the 50 yd freestyle in her leg of the 200 yd freestyle relay.
With a year of UAF classes already under her belt, Widby will enter this swim season as a sophomore academically but a freshman athletically and have four years of eligibility remaining. Widby will continue pursuing a degree in photo journalism at UAF.
She is Lemley's seventh recruit and joins Tori Reiss of Fairbanks, Alaska, Kinsey Laine of Silver Lake, Washington, Courtney Miller of Vancouver, Washington, Abbey Jackson of Petersburg, Alaska, Mariya Pavlovskaya of Korlev City, Moscow, and Heidi Tilicki of Junction City, Oregon in the Nanook swim team's 2007 recruiting class.
Special thanks to Alaska for contributing this report.