The University of Tampa swim team placed third in the Sunshine State Conference (SSC) Championship last week during the four-day meet, which started on Feb. 19 in Orlando. The Spartans will be moving on the the NCAA Division II National Championship on March 9.
Sixteen swimmers from the Spartans are being sent to the finals over spring break, including nine from the men’s team and seven from the women’s.
Freshman allied health major Brittany Bayes is one of seven women who will be competing this year. She recently set an SSC record as well as a personal record for the women’s 1000 freestyle with a time of 10:04.09. She also placed first for the women’s 1650 freestyle.
“I was extremely shocked about that, I was not expecting that going in,” Bayes said.
Junior finance major Jeremy Parker also set a personal best at the SSCs this year by placing second in the men’s 100 freestyle with a time of 44.25. He is currently seeded seventh in the NCAA finals for the men’s 100 freestyle.
During the finals, Parker hopes to place in the “A” finals, which is the top eight, for his relays. Last year, the men placed ninth in the finals and Parker, along with other teammates, plans to beat that and place higher this year.
Support from fellow teammates is something that Bayes believes got the team this far into the season. The large size of both the men’s and women’s teams serves as a benefit during practice and meets.
Parker agreed with Bayes that team support is one of the biggest reasons for the Spartans’ success so far.
“I think we cheered on each other on really well,” Parker said. “[It] made things more enthusiastic and made us swim better all together.”
Smaller teams may not get the kind of support that the Spartans have because there is a larger amount of swimmers competing in similar events. Bayes believes that this increases motivation throughout practice in order to excel.
“There’s more people getting you through practice to stay positive,” Bayes said.
Bayes and Parker think the team is well prepared and any weaknesses are out of the picture. As a freshman, Bayes said she doesn’t know what to expect of the finals but is excited to experience the atmosphere of such a big event.
Overall, Bayes and Parker are happy about both teams performances during the SSC Championship and think that the next week of training will benefit everyone during the NCAA finals.
Coach Ed Brennan disagreed with his swimmers about their performance at the SSC’s last week.
“Although we did well in advancing sixteen swimmers to the NCAA’s, this is the lowest we have ever finished at the conference meet,” Brennan said.
He thinks recruitment for the team this past season could have been done better to result in a higher standing during the conference championship. In the long run, Brennan plans to do a better job recruiting men and women to swim for the Spartans next year.
In preparation for the upcoming NCAA finals, he said there is not much that can be done with the short amount of time between the two meets. He doesn’t want to work the swimmers too hard between two of the most important meets of the season.
“Mentally and physically we try not to expect too much too soon,” Brennan said. “We swam easy (if four miles in a session is easy) this week and we will look to get the speed back over the next 10 days.”
Since the Spartans swim in one of the strongest conferences within the NCAA, Brennan refers to Nova Southeastern University and Florida Southern University, which placed first and second in the SSC’s, as the teams to look out for. Also, St. Leo University and the Spartans are ranked in the top 10 for the NCAA Division II National Championship.
Ann Marie Distasi can be reached at email@example.com