#TGW: New Year, Fresh Faces

Oct. 6, 2017

By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word

It is always easy to find energy in Georgia Tech swimming & diving, unless you stop by before the Yellow Jackets enter the water for a crack-of-dawn workout, and when they open the season this afternoon their faces will be especially fresh.

Or maybe green. When the Jackets take on Pitt at 3 p.m. at the McAuley Aquatic Center, 22 of 62 Tech student-athletes will be freshmen.

Good thing Tech has captains like junior Rodrigo Correia and senior Kira de Bruyn to lean upon. They’re being asked to do a lot more than swim this season, like co-parent, coach and coax.

“It’s not easy to be a captain; I think everybody knows that,” said head coach Courtney Shealy Hart. “There’s an extra set of expectations on you, absolutely, because you’re trying to teach them what it means to be a part of your team.

“The captains are an extension of the coaches . . . We tell them all the time people are watching what you do in and out of the pool.”

That makes Correia and de Bruyn pretty obvious choices for their roles as they’re joined by co-captains Colt Williamson and Sara Gilbert.

Correia, from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, last season set school records in the 100 backstroke (45.65) and 200 freestyle (1:34.18) while adding the second-fastest times in Tech history in the 200 individual medley (1:45.66).

An industrial design major, de Bruyn landed on the ACC academic honor roll the past two seasons in addition to earning CSCAA scholar all-American honorable mention honors twice.

The Walton High School graduate’s been stellar in the pool as well.

She set a school record in the 400 IM (4:12.69), turned in the second-best swim in Tech’s annals in the 200 IM (1:59.99) and was part of the record-setting 400 free relay team (3:18.41) at the ACC championship meet.

Nine of 33 women’s swimmers and divers are new to the college level, and they’re keeping de Bruyn that much busier than usual in more ways than one.

They have a lot of things that they have to learn and I’ve had to help them out,” she said. “I think we’re actually more excited . . . they really want to prove themselves to the coaches and the team so they’re always pushing us. Every year, I’m like, ‘I can’t let the freshmen beat me.’

“I think the freshmen have done a good job proving themselves . . . “After the intra-squad [meet] we really set ourselves up for a good season.”

On the men’s side, 13 of 29 swimmers are freshmen, and yet the Jackets have serious talent back from a squad that finished ninth in the ACC’s while setting nine school records.

Senior Moises Loschi last season set a Tech mark in the 200 breaststroke (1:53.08), earning all-ACC honors, turned in the second-best time in the 100 breaststroke (59.91) and third-best time in the 400 IM (3:51.07).

Other men’s returnees who turned in top-10 times or scores in school history include Williamson, Brad ObergAlex Kimpel, Tim Slanschek, Clay Hering, Brennan Day and diver Matt Casillas.

Correia relishes the opportunity to take on an ACC opponent right off the jump.

“I’m pretty excited to start with an ACC team so we can show [the freshmen] right away,” he said. “I feel like our team is so much better this year. From our intrasquad meet I know some relays we’ll probably be way faster than last year. I’m sure it’s going to be a great meet for everyone.”

Among newcomers, Hart suggested that Jeffrey MurrayJonathan Yang, Caio Pumputis and Christian Ferraro made waves in last week’s intrasquad meet.

The women have more returnees than the men, led by junior Iris Wang.

Wang set school records last season in the 50 free (22.69), 100 free (48.63) and 200 free (1:45.71) while junior Laura Branton set Tech marks in the 100 butterfly (52.67) and 200 fly (1:57.47).

Other top returners who turned in top-10 times last season include Emily Ilgenfritz, Morgan LyonsKristen Hepler, Kaitlin Kitchens and Caroline Lee.

The Jackets’ newcomers are pushing, and last week’s intrasquad meet suggested that the women may be able to move up from their 10th-place finish last spring at the ACC’s, where Pitt finished one place ahead of them by 37 points.

“Some who stood out to me were Catriona MacGregor: she did a great job in multiple events and back-to-back events,” Hart said of the newcomers in the intrasquad meet. “Celine Nugent did a great job. Camille Long, one of our distance girls, did a great job.”

After swimming Pitt, the Jackets will travel to face Northwestern and Notre Dame on consecutive days on the first road trip of the long drive toward next spring’s ACC championships.

The rosters are bigger now that the ACC has grown the number of student-athletes that teams can enter in the conference meet, and Hart’s looking forward to gauging the Jackets’ start today.

She already feels great about Tech’s new captains.

“Rodrigo . . . I think he’ll do an even better job. He kind of knows what to expect now,” the coach said. “[Women’s co-captain] Sara Gilbert, a junior, just has a lot of influence. She’s a very true and honest person; a lot of people look up to her.

“Colt Williamson, he’s a junior as well. He’s growing into the role. Kyra obviously did a great job for us last year. I think at ACC’s, she really stepped up trying to bring everybody together.”

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