Oct. 14, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
It’s always a bigger deal for Georgia Tech swimming coach Courtney Hart when the Yellow Jackets match up against Georgia, not only because of the natural rivalry but because she swam for the Bulldogs in a volleyball and swimming career that landed her in the school’s hall of fame.
Yet Hart has been at this long enough, and the Jackets have improved enough, to where she just wants to get it on – period. It’s time for Tech to beat those people.
So when Tech hits the pool today in Athens, Hart – who went by Courtney Shealy as a Bulldog from 1997-2000 when UGA won national championships in ’99 and ’00 when she was national swimmer of the year – her emotions figure to be a little more pure than in the past.
Even though her college coach, Jack Bauerle, is still helming the canines.
“It’s obviously special for me being an alumnus and being inducted into the Circle of Fame,” Hart said, “but I’m also super competitive and Jack knows I’m coming to win.”
This will be just the second competition of the fall for Tech, and it’s been a while since the Jackets men and women routed Limestone (Sept. 28).
Even without having competed for the past two-plus weeks, Hart has a sense from what she’s seen in practice that the time is coming for the past two recruiting classes to start paying off.
Between the men’s and women’s squads, the Jackets have 19 freshmen and 15 sophomores among 54 swimmers. Hart don’t care.
“We’re pretty young . . . but they’re really excited. We’ve really focused on the total athlete in and out of the pool. We’ve done a few Navy SEAL challenges, and we’ve noticed that people are definitely getting stronger. We’re hoping that transitions into the water.
“Our motto is, ‘Swim fearless.’ Know that we’ve done the work. Act confidently no matter who we’re swimming against.”
The Bulldogs are annually among the nation’s top teams, although last season the Tech men fell to UGA by a modest 161-133 count, and the women finished on the lower end of a 176-115 score in Atlanta. “Our men had a tough meet, and our women beat several national-caliber swimmers,” Hart recalled.
Among the ladies, junior Kate Woolbright and sophomores Sarah Williford, Frederique Lefebvre, Carly Sweeney, Efrat Rotsztejn and Shannon Lumbra (a diver) have paced many workouts. Senior diver Ashley Hardy will bear watching as well.
Hart is also looking forward to seeing redshirt freshman Chiara Ruiu in action. The young Italian freestyle specialist missed last season with a fractured hip.
“She had a hairline fracture on the head of her femur. We have no idea how it happened,” Hart said. “She was off of everything for a while. She had a great summer, though, and we’re looking forward to seeing her.”
van Duijn, Safra and Rotsztein are among Jackets who competed in significant international meets over the summer.
“I really think that is huge leading into your college season,” Hart said. “I think it’s more common now than it was [in her competitive career]. Now, there’s a couple top meets ever summer and the meets are a little faster so people want to go to them.”
Get Sting Daily in your e-mail box — it’s free! Just register here to get the latest features on Georgia Tech Athletics.