Oct. 2, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
Yuval Safra and Ricky Lehner went about their business rather quietly last season, yet while becoming a couple of the top swimmers in Georgia Tech history they did so well that their roles have changed and now they need to be louder.
Safra and Lehner are captains for the men’s team, and fellow seniors Shannon Lumbra and Frederique Lefebrve are captains for the women.
They’ve been working with head coach Courtney Shealy Hart to ready the Yellow Jackets, and this afternoon they will go front and center for the first time this season in a meet with Penn State and Liberty at the McAuley Aquatic Center.
The 4 p.m. Breast Cancer Awareness meet in Tech’s Campus Recreation Center will also be Professor Appreciation Day.
“Everybody brings something different [to leadership roles], whether it’s by example or voice . . . different genders, different backgrounds, different styles,” Hart said. “Ricky and Yuval are really having to step up and be vocal. They were both leaders by example and they are challenging themselves to be more vocal.”
As the Jackets kick off the season, the men will enter five competitors per event vs. Penn State, and the women will swim two heats in each event vs. Penn State and Liberty with each squad entering three student-athletes per heat.
Lehner swam the breaststroke leg last spring on the 4×100 medley relay team that set a school record (3:10.06) while finishing fourth in the ACC Championships. Nico van Duijn and Andrew Kosic – who both graduated – and sophomore Brian Woodbury were also on that team.
Safra last spring finished second in the 500 freestyle with a time of 4:21.48, second fastest in school history. He also has the second-fastest time in the 200 backstroke (1:43.49), third-best time in the 1,650 free (15:09.72) and the sixth-best time in the 1,000 free (9:17.22).
The business management major from Israel is worldly, having also lived in Lagos, Nigeria and Hungary, yet he’s stepping out of his element as co- captain.
“It was difficult for me at first. I was kind of a leader be example, but wasn’t really vocal,” he said. “I worked with Courtney a lot. In the beginning it was hard, but it’s becoming easier.”
Lumbra, who holds the school record of 312.70 in the 1-meter diving competition while sharing the mark of 326.70 in the 3-meter, is more comfortable speaking up.
In her second season as a co-captain, she’s all the more in tune with her teammates even though her practices often are separate from the swimmers.
“I’ve always been vocal, and I let people know when they do something good. I’m working hard at the rowdy part,” she said. “I give so much credit to Fred [Lefebrve] because she’s the one who’s in there day in and day out. “I come in whenever we have team meetings or practices. It’s good we’re roommates. We communicate a lot.”
Both squads welcome several freshman, and fans can get their first glimpses of Iris Wang, a freestyle sprinter who swam for the Chinese Olympic quartet that finished fourth in the 2012 Olympics in the 4×100 freestyle relay, and butterfly ace Laura Branton of Oakton, Va.
“Iris is going to make an immediate impact, and Laura is a butterflyer who already broke our school record before she came here,” Hart said. “Edwin Zhao from [British Columbia] will make an immediate impact [in freestyle and medley].”
The Jackets will go on the road for their next three meets, Oct. 16 at West Virginia, Oct. 17 at Pittsburgh, and at Georgia Nov. 4 before playing host to the Georgia Tech Invitational Nov. 19-21.
“I feel like I’m always trying to cultivate leadership,” Hart said. “It will be interesting to see who leads in the pool. I have my ideas. At the beginning of the year you want to see as many people as possible.”