Making a giant splash

Liberty Women’s Swimming and Diving is off to a strong 3-0 start with a 159-98 win against Campbell and 50-38 and 185-117 wins against New Mexico State. 

This early success is not surprising after nine years of program history has laid the foundation to set up this year — the first year the team exists with elite-level facilities and a full roster. The 2018-19 season is the first that the Lady Flames have recruited divers to complete the swimming and diving program and experienced a full year of training and lifting in the newly constructed Natatorium and Liberty Athletic Center.

The Flames, just returning from their fall break flight trip to compete against New Mexico State, have a significant array of meets to look forward to this fall and leading into the winter championship season. The season will include an Oct. 20 match against Virginia neighbor James Madison University traveling to compete against Marshall University and hosting Brigham Young University for their first appearance on Liberty’s campus
in any sport.

The peak of the team’s season will take place in the end of February when they hold the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association (CCSA) Conference Championships for the first time on Liberty’s campus and go head-to-head against rival Florida Gulf Coast. Much of the Lady Flames season will revolve around preparing for this meet.

Alicia Finnigan, senior butterflier and two-time NCAA qualifier, has three years of competing for Liberty under her belt. She believes the current team has the greatest capability of winning the CCSA Championship, which has not happened for the team since the 2013-14 season.

The team’s season will continue until February. (Photo by Joel Coleman)

She said the sophomores and juniors have worked hard and know what they need to do and the freshmen class has great potential. “I think that’s the way it should be in a growing program like ours,” Finnigan said.

Last year, current sophomore Payton Keiner became the program’s second freshman to qualify and compete at the NCAA Championship meet last March. Keiner described her first year as one without many expectations and that allowed her to get adjusted to each new aspect of life with a new team and different training. 

“My mindset this year is really just to enjoy my team,” Keiner said. “I think if I focus on that and just try to work on my strategy in each race, the times will follow. If I focus on having fun and control what I can control, then my times and my races will just fall into place at these early meets and prepare me to swim my best in February.”

Enjoying the team and the sport proves to make or break a season and its outcome, according to both Keiner and recent junior transfer from Ohio University, Emily

Zimcosky described Liberty swimming and diving’s culture to be one that cultivates success out of joy for each other, for the sport and for the training.

“God gave us this so that we could have fun with it and use it to glorify him and I am realizing that just focusing on results does not bring him any glory,” Zimcosky said. “Finally, I have a group of girls that I can genuinely enjoy this sport with because they do genuinely enjoy it.” 

According to Zimcosky, the goal is finding joy consistently throughout the tough parts of the season and then carrying that through to the conference-level meet where joy can still be the foundation when they are experiencing the pressure. Finnigan said she is already looking forward to the meet and that it has not yet fully hit her what it means to have her last conference swim take place at her home pool.

“Every now and then I kind of picture it and it hits me a little more that this is it,” Finnigan said. “It’s going to be on home turf and I know that we’re all hoping for a win, but no matter what the outcome is it will be a great opportunity for us. It’s going to be something where we can foster a lot of healthy pride in our team and what we’ve been able to accomplish the
past nine years.”

The Lady Flames will travel to James Madison on Saturday, Oct. 20 to compete against the Dukes at 11 a.m.


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