Oct. 16, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
First things first, today’s swimming and diving meet against Georgia – at 4 p.m. in the Campus Recreation Center – is a big deal because, well, those are the damned Bulldogs.
That’s not all, though, that makes this a big deal.
Beyond the fact that a fair number of student-athletes on both squads know one another, there is the reality that the Bulldogs are what the Yellow Jackets seek to be – a power.
UGA has won four women’s national championships, and they’ve been in the mix among men many times.
“We don’t want to be Georgia, we want to be more competitive with Georgia. We want to be Georgia Tech. For us, it’s winning more events every time we swim them, putting more pressure on them,” said Tech coach Courtney Shealy Hart, who swam for UGA from 1997-2000.
“I think in the past it’s maybe been considered an easy meet for them, and our goal is to make it not easy. Our goal is to race them hard so that they take notice of what we’re doing in Atlanta. I think we’re moving in that direction. Everybody is pretty fired up.”
Georgia has seven swimmers who competed in the Olympics earlier this summer, chiefly on the women’s squad for several nations. Allison Schmitt, who earned five medals for the U.S. in London, is among them. She redshirted last year. Tech sophomore Andrew Chetcuti represented Malta in The Games.
The Jackets hope to have an advantage with ACC Diver of the Week Brandon Makinson, who set a school record with a score of 408.85 in Saturday’s lopsided season-opening win over the College of Charleston.
Hart hopes as well to get off to a good start with both 200 medley relay teams.
The women will send out Kate Riley, Catherine Richards, Kate Brandus and freshman Erika Staskevicius on the A team. The men will go with Nicholas Colletti (backstroke), Matt Vaughan (breaststroke), Nico van Duijn (butterfly) and Andrew Kosic (freestyle).
Here’s hoping a couple solid years of recruiting, in which the Jackets appear to be making up ground with local prospects, starts to show.
“I think we have a very good relay. We kind of set the tone for the rest of the meet,” Kosic said. “It’s definitely a good confidence boost if you swim well.”
That first event will be worth watching. Soon thereafter is the 1000 freestyle, and Georgia is typically powerful in the distance events.
“A lot of it is going to be how we do in that first relay,” Hart said. “I think we’ll be very competitive with a chance to win. I think our men will be a little more competitive. Their Olympians are women. Our Olympian is a man. I do think our women are going to swim well.”
This meet will be Georgia’s opener; the Jackets debuted with a pair of easy wins against the College of Charleston.
“Having a rivalry with them in other sports makes it a bigger deal for us,” Kosic said. “Additionally, we know that Georgia is a top program, one of the top 10 or 15 in the country. We want to see how we stack up against them.”
Hart was more than a little encouraged by the Charleston meet, not just because the Jackets won each one handily. They did not let up, she said, even when way ahead, and several times turned in were well ahead of pace.
“I think I was pleasantly surprised. We had times this past Saturday than we were a year ago, and faster than we were for our Invitational last fall, which was a big meet last year,” the coach said.
“Fans make it what they want to make it. For us, it’s a great in-state rivalry. It helps us with recruiting, and getting the rest of our season going as far as seeing where we are. I mean, they’re a national championship-caliber program.”
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