Nov. 3, 2011
By Jon Cooper
It’s a rivalry that gets the adrenaline pumping and the blood boiling. Think back to last week and the anticipation of the battle between the schools in football.
It’s difficult to imagine an ACC season in any sport that doesn’t include the Yellow Jackets and Tigers going head to head. Yet that’s going to be the case in swimming after this season, as the Tigers are dropping their swimming program. For the record, the Clemson men hold a 35-26 edge in the series that began in 1918, while the Tiger women hold a 9-1 edge since they first met in 2002.
Tonight is the last time — at least for the foreseeable future — the schools will meet in the pool. That adds to the drama heading into tonight’s meet between Georgia Tech, Clemson and Western Kentucky at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center. The meet begins at 6 p.m. (fans can get live scoring updates on RamblinWreck.com).
“It’s always sad when we lose a swimming program,” said Georgia Tech swimming head coach Courtney Shealy Hart. “I think it’s such a great sport and so many people do it, but it’s always sad when we lose a sport, especially in an ACC school. It’s just been a great rivalry.”
Another side story to tonight is Stu Wilson’s return to The Flats. Wilson, a member of the Tech staff from 2002 through 2008 and head coach the final four years, is an assistant coach with the Tigers.
He is eager to come back to Atlanta.
“I have some great memories from when I was the head coach at Georgia Tech,” he said. “I’ve always tried to keep in touch with some of the kids there and try to keep aware with how the kids are doing, especially those who have moved on. I’m really looking forward to going down there. It should bring back some great memories. I’m also looking forward to great meet competition between the two teams.”
Hart has stayed friends with Wilson, who brought her onto his staff in 2007, and she said the two had talked during the week.
They agree that the fierce competition between Tech and Clemson makes tonight’s final meeting bittersweet in that they’ll never forget the past meets and miss future get-togethers.
“Every time Clemson comes down to Georgia Tech, it always came down to the last two or three events and can we pull it out,” Wilson said. “Every time we’d come up here when I was the head coach at Georgia Tech, they just beat us hands down. It goes back and forth. As nerve-wracking as it was, when I look back, it was a lot of fun being in that kind of situation. Just these kids trying to fight to win the races, and the close races, I enjoyed that the most.”
“ACC competition is ACC competition so it’s always a fun rivalry,” said Hart. “They’re great competitors, as are we, and so it’s always kind of down to the wire and a lot of fun and we always try to put up our best people and swim as fast as we can, as do they, so it makes for a fun dual meet.”