Flames swimmers, divers out to make waves at first nationals
April 5, 2018 | Atlanta, Ga.
Eleven swimmers and three divers from Liberty University's first-year men's swimming & diving team will represent the Flames in the inaugural College Club Swimming & Diving National Championships, Friday through Saturday in Atlanta.
"Being able to be a part of a first-year program and going to nationals … I'm so pumped to see what these guys can do," said freshman swimmer Ben Klipp, who is seeded first in the 500-yard freestyle with a qualifying time of 4 minutes, 40.30 seconds. "I haven't been in a big meet in a while, so I'm just excited to suit up and see if I can throw down some fast times."
The event is sanctioned by USA Master's Swimming and hosted by Georgia Tech at the McAuley Aquatic Center, site of the 1996 Summer Olympics swimming and diving competitions. It is a fast pool, perhaps even faster than the new Liberty Natatorium, where the Flames have held practices since January.
"We are going into it with high hopes," Flames Head Coach Parker Spencer said. "Our guys are fired up, ready to go, and they've been working hard for it. Their training has been going very well and everyone is ready to swim at their absolute best. The hype of their training is built around being able to swim fast, especially in this atmosphere."
A number of the Flames' national qualifiers were not able to make the trip due to academic obligations or eligibility issues. Still, Spencer expects the Flames to finish in the top five overall.
"Even with a smaller team, we're a competitive team," Spencer said. "We still have a good balance between everyone in various events and several guys who have an opportunity to win an individual title."
Liberty's 800 freestyle relay — featuring freshmen David Schafer, Bobby Hammond and Danny Fernandez, as well as his brother, junior Charles Fernandez, who represented Guatemala in the pentathlon in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil — is seeded 10th.
Friday's swimming finals start at 5:30 p.m. with Saturday's preliminary heats set for 10 a.m. followed by finals at 6 p.m. and Sunday's preliminary heats at 9 a.m. and finals starting at approximately 4 p.m.
"All the hard (training is) over, so we are looking forward to this last week, to get a good taper in and swim fast," said Noah Miller, a spring semester transfer who is seeded fifth in the 200 free and 13th in the 200 butterfly.
Freshmen Matt Sonnen, Javier Lluch Perez from Spain, Jeffery Dunson, and Giovanni Bianco from Italy, junior Sam Kappler, and senior Carson Faix will also swim in a variety of individual and relay races.
Senior Caleb Abel, freshman Matt MacDonald, and Jordan Dennett will compete for the Flames in the 1-meter diving finals, tentatively scheduled for 12:45 p.m. Friday, and 3-meter finals starting at approximately 1 p.m. Sunday.