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    September 19, 2022 Lynchburg, VA RSS |

    Depth and determination are two factors in the favor of Liberty University’s men’s swim team this season.

    No fewer than 17 freshmen will make their debuts with the Flames when they compete in a men’s and women’s dual meet with NCAA Division III University of Lynchburg at the Liberty Natatorium on Friday at 6 p.m.

    That will mark the start of the senior seasons of six members of Head Coach Heath Grishaw’s first full-fledged recruiting class, including team captains Matt Davidson, Carter Helsby, and Zach Mallory.

    “Having Ben Klipp coming back as Assistant Coach and having good leadership within the team is making for the perfect storm,” Grishaw said, noting that they have a 31-man roster, 10 more than their previous largest total in program history. “These freshmen are aware that we do have a large group graduating and that the future is on their shoulders, to take up the legacy of the guys who are graduating and then to create their own legacy.”

    “We’re definitely deeper than we were last year,” Grishaw said. “When you add 10 people to the roster, it adds to a lot of events and that will be one of our biggest strengths this year, that we will be deeper in every event. That’s what has us so excited about nationals. This is definitely our most talented team as a whole, and based off of their times coming in, it is our most talented recruiting class from the top down.”

    Freshman newcomers such as distance swimmers Colin Wood and Jonah Rhodenizer and sprinters Dillon Delaney and Whitt Brown will make an immediate impact as the Flames seek to defend their Collegiate Club Swimming (CCS) Eastern Regional title, Oct. 15-16 at the University of Maryland, and to improve on their top-five CCS National Championships showing, possibly at Ohio State.

    “I can’t say any are going to win three out of four events like Matt Davidson did last year, but we can hope,” Grishaw said. “Based on times from last year, seven of these (freshmen) would have scored at nationals last year as seniors in high school, in multiple events for a few of them.”

    Johnathan Tonnell is the only junior on the team, while the sophomore class is comparable to the seniors with Trent Kolter, UMBC transfer Tyler Suchyj, Sam Quintana, Cody McQueen, Andrew Ingle, and Carson Chesnut.

    “Some of the freshmen coming in are only going to make us better in our relays,” Grishaw said. “Some of them are gunning for a relay spot, and as long as everybody continues to work every day to do as best as they can, whoever has the hot hand will be called on forthat meet.”

    In the first few weeks of practices, and up through Thursday this week, Grishaw has had the Flames training on a long-course setup.

    “That is a good, quick way to get everybody back in shape before we go to short-course training after Friday’s meet,” he said. “That’s one of the added benefits about being in one the greatest aquatic centers on the East Coast, being able to go long-course before you get into short-course training and try to get every one on the same page.”

    The Flames will travel to George Mason University for a CCS meet on Oct. 29 before competing in an open meet, the East Carolina University Invitational, on Dec. 3.

    “We want to make sure the guys swim the best that they can as many chances as we give them,” Grishaw said. “Sometimes they just have to forget about how they feel and not let themselves get in the way of the potential they have for this year.”

    “We’re building up a big aerobic base right now for a lot of our guys, really trying to build up to going fast at the end of the semester,” Davidson added. “I’m super excited for regionals because with the team we had last year we crushed it and ended up winning, so I’m pretty confident we’re going to defend that title with all of the freshmen we have coming in now.”

    Grishaw and his swimmers are shooting to crack the top three, occupied by Purdue, Georgia, and Florida State last season.

    “This year we are focused on commitment— commitment to every day, commitment to your school and school work, commitment to your time and your relationship with the Lord — and all the other things will come,” Grishaw said.

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Video edited by Kylee Lilge/Club Sports Video & Media Coordinator