Oct. 9, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
This being an Olympic year, there’s more energy around the sport of college swimming, and with the start of the swimming and diving season looming, a peek at the Georgia Tech squads suggests that the youngish Yellow Jackets may make more noise.
There’s palpable enthusiasm around both the men’s and the women’s programs.
Fourth-year coach Courtney Shealy Hart last year landed the No. 6-ranked men’s recruiting class in the nation and this year she and her staff have brought to Tech an enormous women’s class.
When the Jackets meet the College of Charleston Saturday, there will be 11 freshmen on a women’s roster that goes 25 deep. There’s a burgeoning local flavor, too. The men have four freshmen and eight sophomores among their 27.
Swimming is strong in the metro area, and that school from the east has historically fared well in pulling talent out of Atlanta. Georgia, by the way, will visit Tech next Wednesday for a 4 p.m. meet.
“We had a lot of graduations, a little bit of attrition and we are really doing a good job of local recruiting . . . it was a big push for us,” Hart said. “It usually starts at the summer league level . . . obviously right now the University of Georgia has a little bit easier time recruiting than we do.
“We’re working on it. It’s one of my goals, to be competitive not only on a national level but on a local level. Being a presence at the club meets, the club practices, creating relationships with those coaches, that’s important. In the sport of swimming, a lot of our prospects rely on research and talking with their club coaches.”
Hart swam for Georgia so she knows well what she’s speaking of here.
She likes her teams, though, and with a re-configured coaching staff that is allowing her to spend time with all her swimmers rather than most of it with the middle-distance athletes, the swimmers feel pretty good about matters as well.
The Jackets had 11 swimmers last year turn in times that were good enough to advance to the Olympic Trials, and sophomore Andrew Chetcuti represented Malta in the London Games. Former Jacket Gal Nevo represented Israel.
Overall, the men last year set two school records and the women six. Also, junior diver Brandon Makinson was All-ACC after finishing second in the 1-meter springboard at the conference meet.
Last summer, van Duijn broke his own Swiss national record in the 100 butterfly (long course, in 53:05).
Van Duijn said youth is served (although he’s older than a typical sophomore, at age 22).
“That’s definitely a very good thing. We had a huge class last year, and that attracted other good recruits,” he said. “If you look at last year’s ACCs, we had a lot of underclassmen who scored.
“I can only compare it to last year, but I feel like the team chemistry is a little more focused. In general, we’re working harder this year and I like that.”
Riley, who was a member of the 200 freestyle relay team that set a school record of 1:31.74 at the ACCs, said the youngsters are keeping everybody busy.
“We have 11 freshmen who are ready to train, ready to go,” she said. “It helps the upper classmen . . . have new energy.”
Hart in the past has focused on middle distance swimmers. This year, newcomer Bill Koppelman is in charge of sprinters, Chris DeSantis is with the middle-distance athletes and Marty Hamburger is working with the distance swimmers. John Ames is the diving coach. Hart’s working more with everybody.
“I’m a distance swimmer and Courtney has never been my individual coach, but she just has a good spirit about the team. She’s always a positive person . . . she’s overseeing and I think that helps a lot. A couple days a week she’s helping our coaches, standing over our lanes. It seems to be working out very well,” said White.
Riley agrees: “I think that’s helping the team because we all know that Courtney knows what’s going on.”
Hatchett, who last season swam five career bests, likes the preseason vibe.
“The energy now compared to when I first came is completely different, not only with the coaching staff but the entire team,” he explained. “We have four freshmen that are ready to step into whatever role they need to. I think this year we’re going to turn some heads.”
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