by Eric Proctor, Catawba College News Service
For the first time in the school's history, a men's swim team will make a splash in Catawba College's pool. The sport has been cut from numerous colleges, but Catawba Athletics Director Dennis Davidson believes that it's due time for the addition.
"We started small back in 1994 and wanted to see how it went with the women," Davidson recalls.
Head coach Betsy Graham believes that the addition of the men's team is a natural transition.
"A lot of swimmers come out of club programs where they swim with both guys and girls," she says. "It's more of a family thing."
Davidson has seen this personally with his own 14-year-old daughter who swims with boys on her club team.
"It actually makes more sense to have them together than not have them together," he explains. "Obviously [having a men's team] goes hand in hand with having a women's team. Usually if a school has women's swimming, they have men's swimming as well."
Wingate, Limestone, and Pfeiffer are area schools that have both men's and women's programs. These schools, along with George Washington, Rose-Hulman Institution of Technology, Asbury College, Fairmont State, Savannah College of Art and Design, Transylvania University, Washington and Lee, West Virginia Wesleyan, and Wheeling Jesuit will provide conference competition for the new men's team. Since they also have women's teams, they will remain Bluegrass Mountain Conference foes for Catawba's Lady Indians.
Graham agrees with Davidson that the addition of a men's team is the sensible thing to do.
"Everything's already in place," she mentions. "You have a pool, you have coaches, so there's not a lot of expense except a budget and maybe some equipment, so it was really cost effective. And you build up your student population."
Graham will coach both the men and women, but has had experience with both, as have the majority of the other swim coaches. She has been coaching for 19 years in the age group and collegiate level, and will be entering her sixth season at Catawba. She has also had Olympic coaching experience.
Graham will be assisted by Amber Stanley, while Andy Jeter and Bob Tyrell will lend their time as volunteers. Graham believes that having a couple of males on the staff will be beneficial to both teams.
"It'll be beneficial across the board for both the men and women," she speculates. "Even with the girls having a guy's influence, it adds something. Most of the girls come from programs where they've had guy coaches."
The men will benefit since both Jeter and Tyrell were members of collegiate teams and can relate to their experiences.
Graham believes that both teams will benefit from each other as well.
"It pushes the girls more," she says, "It pushes the guys because they don't want the girls beating them."
While the teams will train together some, Graham will also schedule some separate practices.
"I want them to have their own identities," she reasons. She explains that male and female swimmers require different things in their training, which becomes particularly evident when competing at the college level.
Catawba's new men's swimming team will give swimmers a chance to compete at the college level. The school has been getting exposure on www.collegeswimming.com, where potential students can evaluate it as an option.
"Students that won't fit in at a Division I program can go to a Division II program and excel," Graham explains. She goes on to say that it helps that there are some good programs out of the Charlotte area. Students who don't want to go too far from home can continue their swimming careers at Catawba.
The roster for the upcoming year contains mostly freshmen, but there is a junior transfer student and a 23-year-old who will be classified as a freshman.
"I really was lucky to have a couple older guys to get in here," Graham says thankfully. "Hopefully it will create some leadership right away."
Men's Swim Team - [Swimming on GoCatawbaIndians.com]
Catawba's first ever men's swimming roster is as follows:
Shane Alexander of Monroe - Freshman - 18 years old - Sprint freestyle, Butterfly, Individual Medley; Michael Biehl of Waxhaw - Freshman - 18 years old - Freestyle, Backstroke; Chad Collins of Rockwell - Freshman - 18 years old - Freestyle, Backstroke, Fly, Distance; Patrik Drakes of Stockholm, Sweden - Ranked 15th in Sweden - Freshman - 23 years old - Breaststroke; Kevin Flebbe of Vineland, N.J. - Freshman - 18 years old - Freestyle, Butterfly; Grant Gibson of Owen Sound, Canada - Freshman - 17 years old – Distance; Craige Hoffman of Weddington - Freshman - 18 years old – Freestyle; Eric Thornton of Greenville, S.C. - Junior - 20 years old - Breaststroke, Individual Medley; and Justin Weller of Hubert - Freshman - 18 years old - Freestyle, Butterfly.
Women's Swimming - [Swimming on GoCatawbaIndians.com]
The women's swim team has set the bar high for these swimmers. The team was voted Academic All-American Team by the College Swimming Coaches Association and placed fifth in the conference last year. Coach Graham hopes to stay in the top five this year, even though new teams will be joining the conference. Kira Capano of Waynesville; Emily Daniels of Mebane; Margeaux Doiron of Gibson, La.; Mollie Landers of Williamsport, Pa.; Christine Ofslager of Midlothian, Va.; and Leigh Spada of Shelby will be returning to help Graham meet this goal. They will be joined by five new swimmers: Andrea Clabaugh of York, Pa.; Ashley Iselborn of Jacksonville, Fla.; Dana Jaremko of Willow Spring; Brittany Harrigan of Ruscum, Canada; and Kahla Jenkins of Concord.
Home Swim Meets
Catch the men's and women's swim teams at home on October 14, 27, and 28, and November 3 and 18 before they hit the road for a series of away meets.