Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Swim team eyes ‘Ring before spring’

Liberty’s women’s swimming and diving team has high expectations for its upcoming season after placing second in the Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association the previous two years.

In only the fourth season of Liberty’s swimming and diving program, Head Coach Jake Shellenberger has assembled a team with many members from a 2012 team that ended the season ranked 37th in the nation.

“I don’t have goals for the team,” Shellenberger said, explaining his coaching philosophy. “(This) is good in a coaching sense because they make up the goals on their own. If a coach says, ‘OK, here’s the goal — win a conference title,’ that’s a coach’s goal, but it doesn’t come from the team.”

Shellenberger explained the benefit of this coaching method.

“If it’s (the coaching staff’s) goal for them, they don’t own it,” Shellenberger said. “But if it is their goal … we can hold them accountable, and we can say, when training gets tough or when they are hurting and tired, ‘Remember your goals. You said to us you want to do this.’”

According to Cori Gary, a junior team captain, the team has a unified goal.

“We want first this year,” Gary said. “We finally have seniors on the team. We want to get them a ring, because if you win the conference, you get a ring. So that’s our thing — ring before spring.”

Liberty will face a challenging schedule this year as they take on teams from the Big 10, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Southeastern Conference.

“The Big 10 is the fastest swimming conference in the country,” Shellenberger said. “So any time you are racing against Big 10 competition, you know that you should be in some good meets.”

In order to build up the swimming program, the team brought its first diver, Courtney Fox, in during the offseason.

“It’s a very interesting situation,” Shellenberger said. “We rent board time from University of Virginia (UVA), and she goes up there on the weekends and dives. So no coach, no boards, but we have diving.”

In addition to Fox, Shellenberger is excited to see how other transfers and freshman swimmers can help the team.

The Lady Flames opened their season at the Virginia Tech Swimming Challenge where they defeated the Radford Highlanders 267-81 and the James Madison Dukes 197.5-157.5. However, Liberty came up short against ACC opponents the Virginia Tech Hokies 228.5-115.5 and the North Carolina Tar Heels 262-87.

Senior Emile Kaufman had an impressive day in the pool, highlighted by a first-place finish. Kaufman won the 50-yad breaststroke with a time of 28.49. She placed second in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:17.41) and third in the 50-yard butterfly (25.26).

Liberty’s team of Kaufman, sophomores Kendall Hough and Jess Reinhardt and junior Meghan Babcock also finished first in the 200-yard medley relay.

Reindhardt placed first in the 50-yard butterfly with a time of 25.12 as well.

Liberty will travel to East Lansing, Mich., to face Michigan State and Illinois Oct. 25 at 5 p.m. The Lady Flames only home meet is against Vanderbilt Nov. 8 at 5 p.m.

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