Men's swimmers building on solid foundation for second year
September 27, 2018 | Lynchburg, Va.
Liberty University's second-year men's swimming team will open its regular season Saturday at the University of Maryland, one of three meets lined up for the fall semester with three more to follow in the spring.
A total of 20 teams are expected this weekend, including swimming powerhouses like the host Terrapins, Penn State, and West Virginia.
The Flames will travel to a regional meet at Rutgers on Nov. 3, which will serve as a qualifier for the March 29-21 Collegiate Club Swimming National Championships at Ohio State, before ending the fall schedule with another regular-season meet at North Carolina State on Nov. 10-11.
"We will taper the guys down for regionals and see how they respond," said first year head coach Heath Grishaw. "They are all aware of the national time standards now and with five meets coming up, have plenty of opportunities to qualify."
He said the standards are higher than last season, when 2,100 swimmers from 120 programs competed at the inaugural Collegiate Club Swimming & Diving National Championships, sanctioned by USA Masters Swimming.
"They're trying to make it more competitive at nationals," Grishaw said. "I'm excited. Last year we took 12 guys to nationals and placed 13th. The way I look at it is, ‘Why can't we do that again, or even better?'"
The Flames currently have a dozen swimmers and half a dozen divers and are expecting to add three or four more swimmers by spring.
Noah Miller, a junior who scored more points for the Flames at nationals than any other swimmer, returns to compete in the 50-, 100-, and 200-meter butterfly. Senior Charles Fernandez, who represents Guatemala in the modern pentathlon, will swim the 50, 100, and 200 freestyle and join in on relays.
Sam Kappler, a senior from Lynchburg, Va., will serve as a team captain while swimming in the sprint freestyle and butterfly events and Blake Dunson, a 6-foot, 4-inch sophomore, returns in the 50 and 100 backstroke.
Grishaw expects freshman Caleb Rice to make a splash in the sprint free and fly events. Freshmen Caleb McClelland (200, 500 free) and Steven Mills (backstroke, butterfly) and recent transfer Dan Flittner (50, 100 free, breast stroke) are other recruits to watch.
Grishaw has a new assistant coach for swimming in Tariq Kelly, who formerly swam and played water polo in the Bahamas and is currently pursuing his master's degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in healthcare management. He also serves as a Club Sports graduate assistant for sports medicine, working primarily with the men's lacrosse team.
"He brings a lot of skill and knowledge to the pool deck in swimming and as an athletic trainer," Grishaw said.
The Flames also have a diving coach for the first time this year. Lucas Wood, husband of Lady Flames NCAA Division I Diving Head Coach Tori Wood, is working with Liberty's male divers this semester and will take them to compete at different meets than the swimmers.
"Our diving team is definitely at a whole different caliber this year with Lucas Wood and his experience on board," Grishaw said. "He fell in love with the sport as a student-athlete at the University of Tennessee, where Tori competed, and he's done an awesome job."