BSC's first class of swimmers and divers hits the water
Birmingham-Southern College made a splash last fall when it announced the addition of swimming and diving to its athletics mix.
The team's 28 new recruits, under the headship of longtime swimmer and coach Toby Wilcox, are half male and half female. Four of the student-athletes are divers and 24 are swimmers.
The 2012-13 swimming and diving team. Click here for team roster.
The team opened its season Saturday, Oct. 20, hosting the Panther Relay at the Olympic-size pool at the Birmingham Metro CrossPlex, less than a 10-minute drive from campus. The swim relays for the weekend varied from a 4x25-yard freestyle to a 3x500-yard freestyle. The team also competed in the 3x100-yard breaststroke, backstroke, and fly. Diving competitions were judged at the one and three meter heights.
The men and women were seeded together and their swimming and diving scores combined for a final ranking. The meet featured Southern Athletic Association conference members Sewanee, Berry, LaGrange, and Bethel, along with BSC.
"I expect a lot from the first-year squads," says Wilcox, a freestyle specialist and former NCAA Division I head coach at the University of Evansville who was brought on last fall. "BSC has a chance to be in the mix when it comes to the conference for both men and women. I believe we have numerous swimmers and divers that have a shot at nationals this year. The team is largely freshmen and a few upperclassmen."
The team's roster was filled in September, and since then, the squad has been hard at work, practicing and honing its technique. The CrossPlex, a $46 million city project completed in June 2011, is being used for practices and home meets. The facility features a top-notch 50 meter, 10-lane natatorium with two one-meter diving boards and two three-meter diving boards.
The Panther team members are from as far away as South Africa and as close as Hoover. Wil Cushman, a freshman pre-engineering major from Dalton, Ga., who handled the freestyle leg for his high school's state title-winning 200-yard individual medley relay team, is part of the first class of recruits.
“I am thrilled to be a part of the inaugural swim team at Birmingham-Southern,” remarks Cushman. “The team is looking strong, and I'm really proud of how my teammates have been pushing themselves and each other in training. It looks like we are going to have a great season this year.”
Most of the swimming and diving season occurs over the fall and winter, with the first meets of the year starting each October and the postseason beginning in February.
"We have four meets during the fall semester that range from one-day dual meets to two-day invitationals," explains Wilcox. "We will compete against 35 teams over the course of the 2012-13 season.
Coming up on the team's travel schedule is the Lagrange Invitational Nov. 9-10 in Lagrange, Ga., and the Sewanee Invitational Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Sewanee, Tenn. The college will host Sewanee and Bethel on Nov. 17 (double dual meet), and will host Darton, Thomas, and Brenau on Feb. 2 before hosting the Southern Athletic Association Championship, Feb. 14-16. Individuals and relays that qualify for nationals are invited to the Conroe Natatorium March 20-23 in Shenandoah, Texas.
BSC Athletics Director Joe Dean Jr. is excited about the addition to the college's SAA Division III offerings, bringing to 22 the number of varsity sports teams at the college.
"There is a great interest in swimming and diving not only locally through high school and club teams, but also across the state and the South," he says. "And the costs of fielding a swimming and diving team are minimal. We hope to get a lot of students, staff, faculty, parents, and alumni out to watch at home meets!"
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