Feb. 17, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
You might think that having the ACC Swimming & Diving Championships at Georgia Tech ought to provide an edge to the Yellow Jackets, and it will, yet without some of the benefits you might expect to come from being at home.
As 12 women’s squads compete Wednesday-Saturday at the Campus Recreation Center in the Aquatic Center centered around the pool used for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, the Jackets will be just like their opponents in one way.
“They don’t get to sleep in their beds [between days],” said Tech head coach Courtney Shealy Hart. “We put them up in a hotel. We want to create a championship environment.”
That said, when swimming preliminaries and the 3-meter women’s diving prelims begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday, the Jackets hope for a little something extra.
“The biggest advantage is just being in your home pool, knowing the turns and the pool,” Shealy Hart said. “And hopefully, you have a little bit of an advantage in the crowd. Our men can cheer the women [this week], and the women can cheer the men [next week].”
A somewhat youngish Tech squad with just four seniors among 29 student-athletes started driving long ago toward this week.
That pool has worked before.
For the first time in program history, the Jackets beat No. 11 Notre Dame 157-143 on Oct. 17 in Atlanta, and for the first time ever Tech beat No. 44 Florida State, 152-148, on Oct. 25, also in Atlanta. The favorites going in will be No. 7 Virginia, Notre Dame, No. 15 North Carolina and No. 16 N.C. State.
Nine ACC women’s squads are ranked among the top 45 nationally.
Fifteen swimmers and five divers will represent Tech in the ACCs, and junior diver Shannon Lumbra will try to get the Jackets off to a great start Wednesday with prelims in 3-meter diving at 10 a.m. and finals at 2 p.m.
Just two swimming events will be contested the first day, with the 200 Medley relay and the 800 free relay slated for finals beginning at 6 p.m. (along with the men’s 1-meter diving final).
Over the rest of the week, Shealy Hart and the Jackets will count on swimmers from near and far.
Junior freestyler/medley specialist Efrat Rotsztejn of Israel and junior Erika Staskevicius of Woodstock, Ga., have put together solid seasons. Freshmen back stroker/freestyle sprinter Alex Rieger of Davis, Calif., and freshman IM/breaststroker/freestyler Kira de Bruyn of Marietta may get on the board as well.
“Staskevicius has been consistent,” Shealy Hart said. “One of the big things is all of our women have to come together, and be as good as we can be.”
There is nothing like the way swimmers go about their business getting ready for a big meet. They’ve not only turned down their voluminous training in recent weeks in order to allow their bodies to freshen up, they’ve all shaved.
That’s a big deal in the sport both for sake of reducing friction in the water, and for the way it impacts athletes psychologically.
“Absolutely it does. It’s a sensation in the water more than anything,” Shealy Hart said. “Especially for men, who have thicker hair. For the women, it’s a mental thing.
“A couple weeks out, you turn down the yardage, but turn up the quality [in training]. It’s about power and speed. As you get closer to [the big meet], you sometimes just do wake-up swims, not a workout. You’re relaxing, and letting a entire year of training pay off.”
It won’t be just swimmers from near at far at the Aquatic Center.
Senior Catherine Richards’ mother has come all the way from Hibberdene, South Africa, to watch her daughter compete for perhaps the final time as a college as a breaststroker/medley specialist.