By Phil Novotny
The Spartan swim team’s 2015-2016 campaign has been a roller coaster to say the least. A few highlights include a first place finish at the Spartan Invitational back in December, climbing into the Top 25 of the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) poll and a key victory over conference rival St. Leo over a month later. That being said, two schools that got the best of UT this season were Florida Southern and Nova Southeastern. Both defeated the Spartans in the first two meets of the season.
In addition to early losses against conference foes, the Spartans were also a part of another delicate situation where teammates were sidelined due to illness.
“This year was a little shaky for us, we had more injuries, sickness and fallouts than we’ve had in past years,” sophomore Catherine Bayes said.
Senior Runar Borgen also weighed in on the effect that illness had on the team.
“We have had a couple periods during the season where a lot of people got sick, so if we could have avoided that, I think we would have been better prepared going into the SSC.”
Despite these unexpected setbacks, the Spartans were able to finish third at the Sunshine State Conference (SSC) Championships behind familiar enemies Florida Southern and Nova Southeastern.
“I thought we swam well at the SSC swim meet,” assistant head coach Jimi Kiner said. “In the end, Florida Southern and Nova were just deeper than us.”
Even with UT’s valiant efforts in the pool, it appeared that Florida Southern’s all-around talent seemed to be the difference in the result.
“Swimming is a unique sport in the sense that you cannot control your opponent,” Bayes said. “I am very proud of the work that our team put in this season but it is simply that Florida Southern had the better season.”
The Spartans did shine in the final race of the meet: the 400 Free Relay. Seniors Martin Hammer, Jordan Augier, Khalid Aldaboos and Jeremy Parker bested the competition with a time of 2:56.84. In fact, Borgen, Hammer, Aldaboss, Parker, Augier and four other teammates will be showcased at the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis. Sophomore Wayne Denswil, junior Marisa Barton, freshman Makayla Ayers and sophomore Brittany Bayes all qualified as well.
“We are all ready to go the fastest we have ever gone,” Hammer said. “I feel the conference meet was a really good test weekend for nationals.”
Kiner notes that the 200 and 400 free relays are the events that the men usually excelled in the past and a first place finish in the conference tournament seems to have the Spartans prepared to soar. “Our preparation for this year has been better overall because we have been focused on that one goal: becoming national champions,” Borgen said. “We are just going to enjoy ourselves, fine-tune our technique and have fun competing the best in the nation.”
On the the women’s side, Ayers began the final day of the SSC Championships with a second-place finish in the 1,650 freestyle with a time of 17:09.44. Her performance landed her second team All-SSC honors. Along with Ayers, sophomores Sophie Long, Amanda Fernandes, Courtney Markle and Barton finished third in the 400 freestyle relay. Long, Parker and sophomore Tommy Reminger also received second team All-SSC honors.
“The amount of work, dedication and heart that my teammates put into this sport is incredible,” Bayes said. “I wish the national team good luck, they deserve nothing but the best.”
Above all, the Spartans are a talented group that’ll be striving for greatness come March 9, the start of the NCAA championships, where we will find out how far their preparation takes them.