Oct. 9, 2012
THE FLATS – With the 2012-13 swimming & diving season opener set for Saturday, Oct. 13 at 11 a.m. versus the College of Charleston at the GT Aquatic Center, RamblinWreck.com caught up with head coach Courtney Shealy Hart for her take on the new season.
Talk about the goals and expectations as you enter your fourth year as the head coach, and how they’ve changed since you’ve taken over.
“I think our team chemistry and culture has changed which has led to faster swimming, and my goal has always been to move up in the ACC and to get some NCAA qualifiers. There’s a new procedure for that (NCAA qualification) which will allow for more parity — something that is awesome and will, I think, help us out. Under the new parity, Anton (Lagerqvist) and Andrew (Kosic) probably would have made it last year, and not been on the bubble and outside looking in. So obviously, our goal is always to move up and always to be better.”
The men’s freshman class last year was highly rated; how do you see these guys doing now that they’ve got one year in the program?
“I think they’ll do great, obviously Andrew did a great job last year as the only freshman to final in the 50 and the 100 freestyle, which are what they call `big boy’ events, so I’m excited about that. He’s got a great supporting cast around him and they’re working hard, and they’ll be ready to go for us. Experience always helps, especially at the college level; it’s completely different between college and club swimming. So a year of experience will help them be even better and have a greater impact on our team.”
Talk about the new faces in this year’s freshman class.
“We’ve got a smaller men’s class this year, and I think they’ll be great, they’ll add some depth and some are going to impact us right away. Mats Westergren will impact us right away, Michael Kenney’s going to help us out in distance quite a bit, Ricky Lehner’s going to help us out in breast and Jarrod Blanton was a bit of a late bloomer, so we’re really excited to see what he can do. On the women’s side, obviously a big class. A lot of local girls that are going to add depth to our program immediately, which is good not only for ACC’s but for dual meets, and I think that they’re going to surprise some people. They all work really, really hard, have a great attitude and love Georgia Tech. They want to be here and they want to work hard and race, so I’m excited for that first meet against College of Charleston.”
You added a new assistant coach and tweaked some staff responsibilities, catch us up on those changes.
“With Robert (Pinter) leaving to go back to the club world it gave me the opportunity to reevaluate everything. I think that Marty (Hamburger) has done a great job with the sprinters. He came in as a distance coach so I thought about it, and while I didn’t go looking for a sprint coach, Bill (Koppelman) happened to come along, so I thought about the dynamics and what I could do to make this team better because that’s my job as head coach, to make everything better and make us faster. Marty’s personality fits in great with our distance kids, they love him and bought into it again. They’re working really hard, and that change has been good. And Bill is doing a great job, he has complete control over the sprint program, and they’re working hard. I think some of them are a little shocked, but also know that it’s really good for them and they’re excited to race. He’s very innovative and does different things, just like Marty, but it’s a little different and a sprinter always needs to keep their focus. They swim for 20, 23 seconds and that’s it, so he’s doing a great job of keeping their focus.”
Tell us about your captains — Bo Hatchett, Kate Riley, Hailey White and Nico van Duijn, and the selection process. One’s a sophomore, which is unusual for you, but talk about what you expect from those four.
“The captains are my and the coaching staff’s liaison to the team. They’ve done a really good job with that. I actually meet with them once a week and do some leadership training. They read a book over the summer and they’ve bought into it. [At our weekly meetings] They tell me what’s going on with the team, and they know what my expectations are for the team and help hold their teammates accountable for that. Our selection process is basically our team votes in the spring. I don’t tell them when we’re going to vote because I don’t want people campaigning to be captain. I don’t want people to be captain for a week, I want them to be captain for a year. We were not surprised that Nico (van Duijn), the sophomore, got a lot of votes, we looked as a staff and thought that they were right on this year. I think they’ve done a really good job. It’s unusual to have a sophomore, but I’m not surprised. He’s a good leader and also a little bit older for a sophomore too.”
A big women’s freshmen class also means you’ve lost a lot of seniors from last year — impact swimmers in Keren (Siebner), Heidi (Hatteberg) and Jordan (Evans). Talk about how you replace those three.
“They had a great senior season and I was happy for them to go out like that, breaking team records. Our freshmen class knows that have that to live up to, that they have some big shoes to fill. There’s a lot of them, and again, they know what the goal and the task is. They’re working hard. We’ll just see how it comes along this year. They’re very excited for the first meet, and I think our meet schedule’s going to be great. It’s a very doable meet schedule in terms of building up confidence going into conference. We’ve got some tough opponents, but we’ve also got some opponents that are a good place to see where we are without thinking too much. Here at Georgia Tech they like to think a lot, but I just want to race.”
The program enjoyed a lot of positive benchmarks last year — the women beating Clemson, both teams improving in the ACC, record Olynmpic Trials qualifiers, Chetcuti in the Olympics, Anton winning the 200 breast and Brandon (Makinson) with a silver in the 1-meter diving — how important are those to the development of the program?
“Well, we had a great season, and the kids are working hard. It’s easy to do that when it pays off, when they believe in what they’re doing and they have confidence and that’s huge. Like I said at the beginning, I’m not only working on getting faster but on building better team chemistry and helping them grow into adults. That’s part of college, growing into an adult and thinking for yourself, and learning right from wrong. That all helps when you swim fast, because that means you’re doing the right thing and it’s paying off.”