BY JULIA WHEELEHAN
As the season draws to a close, the men’s and women’s swim team attended the Sunshine State Conference (SSC) Championship tournament in Clearwater. It occured over the span of four days, from Feb. 22-25, with seven teams competing. Overall, men’s swim team placed fourth with a final total of 548 points and the women’s swim team placed second with a total score of 797.50 points.
Junior distance swimmer Makayla Ayers was nervous about returning to the pool. She’d been swimming for the past 15 years, but over this past summer she injured herself and she had to take some time off and away from the water.
“I had shoulder surgery back in July and this was my first meet since then,” Ayers said. “So I didn’t get to race in the fall and spring races before this one, but I worked on improving my underwater and turns to improve my races.”
Sophomore fly and freestyle swimmer Molly O’Hara, was looking forward to the SSC Championship meet. She was both confident and nervous, but she came out of the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 54.86 on the second day, setting a new school record.
O’Hara was also part of a medley relay team that set a new school record with a time of 1:42.32 on the first day of the Championship, then on the final day O’Hara came out with second place in a 400-yard freestyle relay, with a final time of 3:24.47.
“I felt ready for the conference meet,” O’Hara said. “I wasn’t sure of what would happen but that’s when I had to trust in my training, but I believe the coaches prepped the whole team exactly the way we needed and it definitely showed.”
O’Hara has been swimming since she was five and left behind a trail of medals, ranging from top times in the 50-yard freestyle (24:00 at last year’s SSC) to 200-yard freestyle (against Rollins College). Those years of practice and training have helped her to place 17th out of 25 top female swimmers at the meet, one of seven Spartans to do so.
“It’s hard to have a bad day, when training with people who push you in and out of the pool everyday,” O’Hara said. “I don’t think I would have been able to achieve my goals without the support system.”
Freshman Luke Maxwell, agreed with O’Hara. Maxwell is swimming in a collegiate pool for the first time as a freestyle and breaststroke swimmer, but had been on a swim team for all four years in high school.
“I think the coaches did a great job of preparing the entire team for competing at this meet,” Maxwell said. “We trained harder and better and that really showed in the whole team’s performance.”
Junior Forrest Lundy was also looking forward to seeing how much he has improved from his past years on the team.
“I took each race that we did as an opportunity to learn,” Lundy said. “So throughout the season I was working on certain techniques and strategies to fine tune everything for the conference meet.”
Lundy finished last year’s season with getting top times in 200-yard freestyle, breaststroke and IM and 100-yard breaststroke.
However, racers were concerned about the heavy competition so close to the NCAA Championship races. One of the stronger teams was Nova Southeastern University.
“They’re an incredible team and were a powerhouse this year,” Maxwell said. “But I think that the team that’s going to nationals is already pretty well prepared.”
With the NCAA Championship meet around the corner, all qualified racers are training harder than ever.
“With missing a week of school already, that is hard because all of us are playing catch up right now,” O’Hara said. “And now, all of us are working ahead because that’s another week of school. It’s all about balance and it’s all worth it because we’re not done yet.”
“We get back into the full schedule with two practices a day to get ready,” Lundy said. “But that happens in a few days. After this meet, the whole team gets to take it easy, so the first few days back will be recovery.”
The NCAA Championship meet will be from Wednesday, March 14 to Saturday, March 17 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Julia Wheelehan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org