By Katelyn Massarelli
Last year, the men’s and women’s swim teams came up short of first with two relays reaching second place at the NCAA Championships. Leaving their past mistakes behind, returning swimmers like senior Jeremy Parker are coming back this season with a vengeance.
“That feeling when we touched the wall just to see we only lost by a couple hundredths of a second was something I, and my teammates, do not want to feel again,” Parker said.
Along with the returning swimmers, the team has many new recruits like freshman Makayla Ayers.
“My teammates are all very friendly and have made the pool feel like a very welcoming environment,” she said.
The new swimmers are determined to rise up to the level of the rest of their teammates and not let anything get in the way of their goals.
“I have already seen people like Brittany Murphy and Makayla Ayers on the women’s side step it up during practice,” said junior Marisa Barton, a veteran of the team for three years.
One of the first practices of the season bonded the team very quickly.
“We did a notoriously hard set of 10×100’s off the block all-out,” said Barton. “Afterwards the women’s team was together in the locker room and we all felt something special after that. We could all just feel that something amazing is about to happen this season. We really came together on that set and got through it as a team.”
To test their newfound connection, the team will have to compete against Sunshine State Conference (SSC) rivals like Florida Southern and Nova Southeastern later on in the season.
“We have such a great rivalry with them and it’s always a pleasure to race,” Barton said.
Coming out as the top team in the SSC is their only chance to make it back to the NCAA Championships in March. Going back to compete in the NCAA meet is something the swimmers are determined to do so they can move up from their placements last year.
“I have achieved many things throughout my swimming career here at UT, but my last and final goal that I am focused on getting is standing on the first place podium at nationals with the rest of my relay,” Parker said.
This past summer after his performance at nationals, Parker qualified for the United States Olympic Trials for the 50 freestyle with a time of 22.87 seconds.
“You put Jeremy Parker at the end of a relay and it’s the eighth wonder of the world; he will never back down to a challenge,” said Barton.
The team is more prepared than ever for this coming season. They have a lot to prove this year at the SSC meet and hope to move on to NCAA to defend their previous spots from last season and progress.
A teammate Barton shares relay records with, shared that her name was spelled wrong the first time she had won with her relay team at nationals and jokingly uses that as an excuse to further her dreams even more. “I told her we would just have to break our records again, so it could be fixed.” Barton said.