Feb. 17, 2016
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
When everything is on the line, there’s great comfort to be found in competing in your own pool.
With good races the next couple of days, Georgia Tech’s women’s swim team and GT’s men’s and women’s diving teams can earn the opportunity to do just that at this year’s NCAA Championships, for which Georgia Tech’s McAuley Aquatic Center plays host in March.
But first things first for Tech’s contingent of 16 swimmers and eight divers — the ACC Championships, which started Wednesday morning at The Greensboro Aquatic Center in Greensboro, N.C., and run through Saturday (the finals, Thursday through Saturday will be streamed on ESPN3 and fans can follow live results.
“A big thing for us right now is just wanting to be competitive and racing hard and having fun as a team,” said Georgia Tech swimming and diving head coach Courtney Shealy Hart. “I think we’ve had a great season. Our women are excited. We’ve had fun the last couple of weeks, have prepared ourselves for these championships and I know they’ve worked really hard. I’m excited to see them successful in the pool in both both swimming and diving.”
Wednesday’s preliminary diving will feature Tech’s senior captain Shannon Lumbra and junior Brad Homza on the men’s side. Both are hoping to ride the momentum from GT’s final dual meet on Jan. 30 against Emory, when each set school records in the 1-meter — Lumbra, 321.15, Homza, 379.20. Lumbra also shattered the school record in the 3-meter (340.65), while Homza had a personal-best in the 3-meter (391.73).
“Obviously they’ve both been very consistent and great performers throughout our dual-meet season,” said Hart. “I’m looking forward to them competing and scoring for us in diving.”
This week is special for Lumbra, a Flower Mound, Texas, native and two-time ACC Female Diver of the Week during the season, will be competing in her final ACCs.
“I definitely think she knows the drill,” Hart said. “She’s been a captain for us the past two years and a great vocal leader as well as a leader by example in her work ethic. So I think she’s real excited for the ACCs and looking forward to competing and getting points for the team.”
Wang, the Chinese superstar sprinter, who was part of the national-record-setting 4×100 relay at the 2012 London Olympics and a four-time medalist at the 2012 Asian Swimming Championships, made her mark in her debut year on the Flats, recording the team’s top times in the 50- (23:58), 100- (49:49), and 200-meter freestyle (1:48.53) and the fifth-best time in the 500 (5:09.01) as well as kicking off the 200, 400, and 800 freestyle relays and anchoring the 200 and 400 medley relays.
Ilie, who holds Romania’s national records in the 50- and 100-meter breast stroke, set team highs in both the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke at the Georgia Tech Fall Invitational with times of 1:02.57 and 2:15.59, had the fifth-best time in the 200-fly (2:09.48) and 200 IM (2:09.35) and also was a part of the team’s 200- and 400-medley relay teams.
“They’ve both been very consistent for us,” said Hart. “Having two people that we can rely on consistently is always good. They are hard workers and they like to compete. They like to race. That’s what we want at Georgia Tech, people that like to race and want to compete hard.”
Hart refuses to label anyone “a surprise” in that she expects the entire team to come out with their best.
“I’m looking forward to everybody. I don’t have any particular people that are going to stand out because I hope we all stand out,” she said. “I’ve told the girls It’s going to take all of us to be on our ‘A’ game and to be successful so I want everybody to be excited about racing not only for themselves but for the team. Our divers as well, they’re a big part of our program and to have them be successful on the diving board, for our women, obviously, this week’s championship concludes this week, but for the men to kind of get us started (the men’s championships take place Feb. 24-27). Swimming and diving is a combined sport. It’s going to take everybody.”
Wang, Ilie, Lumbra and fellow diver, junior Andrea Demick and men divers and Homza, junior Omar Eteiba and freshmen Matthew Casillas and Nolan Mallet have already qualified for the NCAAs, but berths are out there for the taking.
“I’m looking forward to them competing well,” said Hart. “It’s all about competing at this point. It’s all about scoring points for the team.”