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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The 2007 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships saw Tennessee tally 127 points en route to its highest placement in 11 years (10th), set six school records and bring home 26 All-America certificates. The seven athletes who represented the Orange and White placed in 11 of the 15 events they entered. This year, the Lady Vols are on track to improve upon those numbers.
“One of the goals we came up with at the beginning of the year was to score 200 points [at the NCAA Championships],” head swimming coach Matt Kredich said. “That could land us anywhere from 12th to 5th, depending on how other teams score. Our main goal here is to swim faster and compete better than we have all year.
“If we can apply lessons learned from the year to our last performances of the year, we will feel great about what we’ve done. Our loftiest goal is to have every swim score, which means finishing in the top 16.”
Just a month ago at the Southeastern Conference Championships, Tennessee tallied 477 points for fourth place in arguably the nation’s toughest conference. Senior Christine Magnuson took home four gold and a bronze medal in addition to the Commissioner’s Trophy. Senior diver Lauren LeRoy was crowned the three-meter champion and was third from one meter and fifth from the platform. Sophomore Michele King garnered four medals, while freshman Aleksa Akerfelds picked up a silver and two bronze awards at her first conference championship meet.
“I firmly believe that success is a habit,” Kredich said. “So I think our success at SECs helps us understand how to be successful at this meet. One of the lessons that a lot of people learned at SECs was that we can swim fast on demand, no matter whether we feel good, whether the pool is to our liking- no matter what. I think that’s a timeless lesson in swimming. If we in fact learned it, we’ll be very good here.”
At the end of the SEC meet in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Magnuson was named the SEC Female Swimmer of the Year and Co-Scholar Athlete of the Year. Akerfelds earned the SEC’s Freshman Female Swimmer of the Year award. Kredich was voted the conference’s Co-Head Coach of the Year.
Kredich and head diving coach Dave Parrington are bringing 10 athletes (and three alternates) to the national championship meet, to be held March 20-22 at the McCorkle Aquatic Center at Ohio State University. Joining Magnuson, LeRoy, King and Akerfelds are juniors Carly Mathes and Brittany Nauta, sophomore Jamie Saffer and freshmen Morgan Farrell, Martina Moravcikova and Tricia Weaner. Juniors Sarah McCall and Ashley Quinn, along with sophomore Bryttany Curran are serving as alternates.
“I am, and I know Lauren is also, excited to be here for her second appearance at the NCAA championships,” Parrington said. “I am pleased with her demeanor and state of mind at this point more so than this point last year.
“It is my experience that at a meet of this caliber, the majority of the athletes are at the same talent level with a few exceptions. The thing that separates the more successful competitors from the others is the state of mind. Lauren is more composed and relaxed and I’m certainly looking forward to the competition starting tomorrow.”
The seventh-ranked Lady Vols amassed a 5-3 dual-meet record this season, with their losses coming to Auburn, Georgia and Florida when each was ranked in the nation’s top three. Auburn is currently fifth, Georgia is first and Florida is third. In addition to Tennessee, five SEC schools are ranked in the top-25 by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA).
Kredich hopes that lessons learned over the course of the year will help his team achieve its goals this week.
“We can learn a lot from great success and we can learn a lot from setbacks or failure, if you want to call it that,” Kredich said. “If our freshmen learn a lot here and then apply it, then it means great things for the program. If our upperclassmen are brilliant, then it’s a further demonstration that we are developing elite athletes without limits at Tennessee.”
The four-day national championship meet will begin on Wed., March 20 and continue through Sat., March 22. The swimming preliminaries will begin at 11 a.m., while the finals are slated to begin at 7 p.m. each day. Live results can be found on the Lady Vol web site, www.utladyvols.com.