by Brenna DeLucia
With The University of Tampa men’s swimming team going undefeated this regular season for the first time in school history, and the women’s swim team coming back from last season as Sunshine State Conference (SSC) Champions, the swim team, coaches, and the university as a whole is looking forward to see what the 2020 SSC Championship holds for them.
For the men’s team, they had their best regular season ever, since they finished the season undefeated for the first time in school history. Since the SSC Championship is coming up, senior finance major Brett Saunders, said “every person on our team has the ability to score, but only 18 can be on the scoring team, so it’ll be a tough decision for the coaches to choose. We have our strongest chance to win the conference championship this year because of our depth.”
Brett, along with all of his teammates, are extremely excited to show conference and NCAA what UT Swim is all about.
As for the women’s team, last year they were SSC Champions and are planning on keeping it that way for this coming championship. “This was yet another very successful year for us,” said senior marketing major, Molly O’Hara. The women’s team ended the regular season 7-2 and can’t wait to go to the SSC Championships and hopefully take home yet another victory.
Additionally, sophomore Lisa Bazarova broke the University’s previous record for the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:02 and freshman, Julia Augustsson, broke the University’s previous record for the 200 breaststroke with a time of 2:15.62 this season.
O’Hara and senior, Torey Brierley are both preparing for their final meet of their collegiate career. While feeling nostalgic about the championship, the seniors are looking to bring back yet another title for the school and the team that they’ve competed on since freshman year.
Captain of the men’s team and senior finance major, Dominic Russo, had tremendous things to say about his team this season.
“We’ve truly built a family that goes beyond just the pool” said Russo. Adding to that, junior international business and management major, Andreas Johnsen said that “this is the fastest and deepest team we have ever had, so we are looking really good this season. Of course winning the conference would give us a huge boost going into next season, and it will hopefully make people train hard over the summer and feel motivated to come back to back champs.”
Russo is looking forward to leading the team to the conference championship in hopes to be the first victory as a men’s swim team for UT since joining the SSC. “My favorite part about the regular season was definitely our last duel meet against Indian River,” said Russo. “It was our senior meet, and the team morale was amazing and I wouldn’t have wanted to end the regular season in any other way.”
The head coach of both the men’s and women’s swim team, Jimi Kiner, started his career at UT as a student/swimmer from 1997 to 2001. Afterward, he started coaching the UT swim team and said he has loved it ever since. Speaking on what he is most proud of, Kiner said, “Our men had the highest GPA in the athletic department for all male sports and [he is also proud of] how hard the team works day to day with the difficult academic schedule they have.”
Kiner’s expectations are very high for the SSC Championship. “Our women are returning champs, so we expect a win and our men went undefeated this season and are looking to win our first SSC Swimming Championship,” said Kiner.
Kiner said he is excited about the championship coming up and he just hopes that each individual athlete does the best they can in order to help the team.
The SSC Championship is held at the Clearwater Aquatic Center in Clearwater, Florida and is held over the course of four days, Thursday-Sunday, Feb. 13-16. Prelims, which are the portion of a competition that determines which swimmers qualify for the championship, start at 10 a.m. and the finals start at 6 p.m. every day.
After the SSC Championship, the swimmers who qualified will compete in the NCAA National Championship three weeks later. Then, two weeks after, sophomore Courtney Sherwood and Saunders have the opportunity to compete in the Canadian Olympic Trials.
Brenna DeLucia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org