Men’s swimmers keep Hornets at bay in season-opening meet
Liberty University’s men’s swimming team opened its 2021-22 season by winning 10 out of 14 events in Friday night’s dual meet against the University of Lynchburg at the Liberty Natatorium, with junior captain Matthew Davidson winning three individual events and swimming the opening legs of both winning relays.
“We got a lot of hands on the wall first, which is great,” Flames Assistant Coach Ben Klipp said. “Going 1-2 in (the 100 and 200 freestyle, 100 and 200 butterfly, and 200 breaststroke) obviously shows we have a little bit of depth. This is a great steppingstone and a great learning experience. It was a short meet and we just wanted to see what kind of grit they have. Today was just a big mental test and today they stood up to it. I was just really proud of our guys for the way they competed. They went out and fought.”
The event was not scored as it was an exhibition between the Flames, who compete in Collegiate Club Swimming (CCS), and NCAA Division III Hornets. It was held simultaneously with a women’s exhibition meet between the NCAA Division I Lady Flames and NCAA DIII Lady Hornets.
“It feels great,” Liberty said junior Zach Mallory, who finished second in 1 minute, 54.21 seconds to senior teammate Robert Boehme (1:54.17) in the 200 freestyle and anchored the winning 200 free relay (1:31.83). “It almost makes us feel like an actual NCAA Division I team, having the men and the women here together. This was a great meet to swim with them and be a team together.”
He said it was also a great opportunity to swim against cross-town Lynchburg, which uses the Liberty Natatorium as its home base.
“We don’t have a ton of interaction with them, other than at this meet, but they’re all super friendly and they’re great sports,” Mallory said. “We always congratulate each other at the end of races.”
“Any chance you get to swim Lynchburg, we’re going to take it, and we’re going to show them what we’ve got,” Klipp added. “We’re a Club (Sports) team, they’re an (NCAA) Division III team, which kind of adds fuel to the fire.”
Mallory said the Flames left plenty of room for improvement as they gear up to host as many as 15 schools for the Nov. 5-7 Eastern Regional Championships.
“We’re feeling the summer, because not a lot of the guys trained as regularly over the summer, but we’re getting back into it and this was a great showing of what our potential will be for the season,” Mallory said. “It was great competition … and the team performed very well.
“At Regionals, we’re going to be looking even better and even stronger,” he added. “Today just showed the potential of what we will be (for that meet) and ultimately at (Collegiate Club Swimming) Nationals (in Atlanta) in April.”
The Flames opened the meet with a narrow victory over the Hornets in the 200 medley relay, with Davidson followed by junior captain Carter Helsby, freshman Trent Kolter, and sophomore Jonathan Tonnell, finishing in 1:39.67. Boehme then won the 500 free by more than seven seconds in 5:08.93 before Davidson dominated the 100 back by more than three seconds in 53.87.
Kolter pulled away from Boehme by more than three seconds in the 200 fly in 2:02.30 before Davidson won the 50 free by more than a second in 21.57 and Helsby prevailed in the 200 Individual Medley in 2:09.21. Davidson (53.97) edged Kolter (54.53) in the 100 fly before Helsby (53.97) held off freshman Tristan Roach (54.53) in the 200 breast in 2:19.37 and Tonnell (51.61) nipped Kolter (51.89) in the 100 free.
Complete results are available online.
Next up, the Flames will travel to the Oct. 9-10 Raleighwood Invitational hosted by North Carolina State University before competing in another meet at the University of Delaware on Oct. 23.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Video by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media