By Sydney Rhodes
The UT men’s and women’s swim team will dive in to face their biggest competitors within the Division II Sunshine State Conference (SSC). The championship meet will be held Feb. 21-24 at the Clearwater Aquatic Center.
On the men’s side, their biggest rivals and closest competitors will be Florida Southern College and Nova Southeastern University. Associate Head Swim Coach for the men’s team, Ed Brennan, said the women’s toughest competition will also be Nova Southeastern and it looks like the Conference Championship will be a two team race in the women’s events.
The swim team’s season began in late September and will run until mid March, concluding with the NCAA National Championships. During the 2018-2019 season, the men’s team has won five of the eight meets so far and also placed second at the Spartan Invite in December to Indian River State College, who does not compete within the SSC. As for the women’s team, the Spartans have been undefeated in all eight meets this season.
“UT is currently ranked in the top ten nationally with both our men and women,” said Coach Brennan. “We have more talent than last season at conference when our women were second and our men were fourth. The level of commitment from this group has been as good as I’ve ever seen.”
The UT swim team returned to campus three weeks prior to school resuming over Winter Break in preparation for the Conference meet and NCAA National Championships.
“This men’s team has improved tremendously since last year, not just in talent, but work ethic,” said Brett Saunders, junior IM and Breaststroke swimmer. “Many of our swimmers haven’t missed a single workout out of the hundreds we have done this year, which truly displays their dedication to the sport and to our family.”
Saunders also broke the program’s longest standing school record in the 200 breast with a time of 1:59:39 this season. The record was previously set in 2002 by UT Hall of Famer, Matt Goodwin. Saunders said he had no intentions of breaking the breaststroke record until this season and decided to focus on the event in the Fall semester.
“My individual goal is to place at least in the top eight, hopefully top three, at the NCAA National Championship in March to receive All-American honors,” said Saunders.
The last time the women’s team won the SCC Championship was five years ago and was over seven years ago for the men’s team. Junior freestyle and individual medley (IM) swimmer, Jessie Tobin said the women’s biggest goals for this season are to go undefeated and become the SSC Champions.
“Practices have been grueling and it can be really difficult to balance school, swim and social life,” said Tobin. “But, our team is really excited to end this season on a high note because we have been training so hard and we are ready to go and swim as fast as we can.”
After the SSC Championships, some member of the men’s and women’s team will compete at Nationals in Indianapolis, which will be held in mid March. Brennan said a number of swimmers have already qualified for Nationals and hopes for 12-20 men and women to qualify after the Conference meet.
“Our team this year is very supportive of one another whether it be in the pool or outside of the pool,” said Tobin. “The team started off with big goals in mind and we didn’t let them fall through. We’re really excited to see what we can do at conference and hopefully bring home a win.”
Sydney Rhodes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org