Swimming, diving team members reap honors

By Sye Bennefield


Sitting on Head Swimming Coach Phillip Davis’s desk is the men’s runner-up Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association Championship trophy.

By no means does it satisfy him or the other swimmers.

The 2015 CCSA Swimming & Diving Championships finished Feb. 21 at the University of Georgia’s Gabrielson Natatorium in Athens with the University of the Incarnate Word men finishing second and the women finishing fifth.

Faced with a few obstacles throughout the season for the women and not finishing the way they wanted to for the men, this season has had its ups and its downs for Davis.

“Coming off winning the conference championship on the men’s, anything less than that is kind of going backwards,” Davis said. “So at the end of the year finishing second is a great accomplishment, but for us it’s not our goal. It’s not arrogance, it’s just we did not hit our goal.”

Davis said he and the rest of the men’s swimming team have had to do a little self-reflection.

“We’ve kind of looked at ourselves in the mirror a little bit as a program, as a staff, and as athletes and identified what needs to change because this isn’t what we’re going to do. We’re not going to be second.”

Changes were imminent. Anything from graduating seniors, to cutting scholarships, to simply changing their eating habits. Come October, when the 2015-16 season will most likely start, expect to see a more focused and hungrier men’s swimming team.

The women’s swimming team set the bar high this season with a goal of finishing in the top three after the CCSA Championships concluded. Nonetheless like the year before, they finished in fifth.

Their fifth-place finish only showed half of the difficulties they had to endure all season long, however.

“It was one of those kind of years where the whole conference made a big step forward,” Davis said. “We didn’t really go backwards. We just didn’t get ahead of anybody either.”

Dealing with injuries and sometimes even sickness right before conference, the women’s team did well to finish fifth.

“All in all, the women I thought, maybe even overachieved at the meet to hold onto fifth,” Davis said.

Not all was negative on the year for the women’s swimming team. Several members during the CCSA Swimming & Diving Championships earned numerous individual awards after the meet.

Freshman standout Alona Kyselova of Kiev, Ukraine, took home the Women’s Most Outstanding Freshman of the Meet after winning both the 200-Individual Medley (IM) and 400-IM. Senior nutrition major Kali Lents of San Antonio was announced as the Diver of the Year for the second straight year, after sweeping both the one and three-meter diving events.

Two divers — sophomore biology major Kimberly Foster of Spring, Texas, and freshman kinesiology major Mallory Draper of Victoria, Texas — took second and fourth, respectively in the platform.

Even Diving Coach Tommy Law saw himself a winner after being named the Women’s Diving Coach of the Year for a second time and the Men’s Diving Coach of the Year for the first time.

And 34 members of the men’s and women’s teams were named to the CCSA All-Academic List.

The swimming department is not only kind to current UIW student-athletes, but also former ones who now call themselves professionals.

“One of our assistant coaches, he’s one of our pro kids, finished fifth in Brazil Nationals. If you put that in perspective the top two go to the Olympics. So he’s fifth right now and we have a year to get him into second,” Davis said.

Another volunteer assistant, Daniel Torres, just recently came back from Mexico after being crowned the national champion in three different events in December.

With a championship mindset or bust, Davis and the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are on the right track to accomplish their goals.

So what’s next for both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams? Olympic trials.

“Next summer we’ll have 10-12 people on this team go to Olympic trials for USA, so that’s exciting,” Davis said.

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