Swim team adds staff, more team members

By Max Carter – jcarter1@unca.edu – Staff Writer | Sept. 24, 2014 |

The UNC Asheville women’s swim team made additions in the offseason, including more depth to the roster and the hiring of a new assistant coach.

“Our team is bigger and we finally have a full squad,” said Elizabeth Lykins, head coach. 

In the past two seasons the team consisted of 11 swimmers or less. The 2012 season hosted a roster of only seven.

According to Lykins, the NCAA classifies a full squad as 18 athletes, meaning no one on the bench. This year the roster holds 19 swimmers, nine of whom are returning from last year with the other 10 being freshmen.

“We want to eventually carry 25,” Lykins said. “But 19 is a good start.”

Ashley Ireland, junior co-captain, said she is enthusiastic about the growth in the roster. She also said with the additions to the team, the possibility of success is greater this season.

“The 10 new freshmen that came into the program are absolutely outstanding. They — along with the returners — bring a passion and energy to the pool that has provided one of the most positive environments in which I have had the opportunity to swim,” Ireland said. “We have the chance to do some big things this year at conference, at dual meets and even in practice. Part of this is because of our increase in numbers.”

Along with additions to the roster, UNCA hired Rebecca Westfall as the new assistant coach. Before graduating in 2008, Westfall swam for Texas A&M and afterward held coaching positions with Adam State University in Colorado, Emory and Henry College in Virginia and Warren Wilson College.

 “She is a great technician and has been a huge help to the program already,” Lykins said.

Westfall’s specialty in biomechanics and technique focuses on how the body functions and performs. Part of her job ensures the athletes use good form to stay healthy throughout the season.

“Biomechanics are how the body works. A bad body mechanic would be putting the elbow behind the shoulder plane, which is bad for your shoulder,” Westfall said. “With biomechanics I make sure the body works within its limits and we don’t injure the body.”

According to Westfall, her knowledge of good technique and performance allowed her to come in and make immediate changes to the way the program approached technique.

“I feel Elizabeth has really embraced my strengths. Basically, the first week I was running the show,” Westfall said.

Westfall said she believes proper technique and a focus on biomechanics are essential to the success and health of the swimmers, but how the team performs in competition is more of Coach Lykins’ concern.

“I’m not really one to focus on time and placement. I just want the girls to improve,” Westfall said. “Obviously I do want the girls to go to conference and make a big statement. For me, coaching is about making them not only better swimmers, but better people too.”

Last season UNCA finished 10th out of the 12 teams in the Big South Conference. Now with a much larger team, there is more opportunity to score points and place higher.

 “(Team goals) always involve improvement from previous seasons. When we made goals at our team retreat this season, we all agreed that scoring more points at conference championships than the previous two seasons will be a focus for us. To reach this final, end-of-season goal we made a lot of smaller goals throughout the season to stay focused and motivated,” said Galen Broido, junior co-captain.

Broido said the responsibility to set examples for the team and foster a positive environment falls to herself and Ireland as co-captains. They do this by organizing team events, dinners and awarding a Swimmer of the Week.

“Galen and I are beyond grateful for the opportunity to be leaders on this team,” Ireland said. “This season, we plan to focus a lot on confidence in yourself, in your teammates and in the coaching staff. Swimming is a sport that requires a lot of mental toughness. We want this team to be a group where everyone feels supported.”

From the increase of depth in the roster to the hiring of Westfall, the overall attitude of UNCA’s swim team remains optimistic and they are looking forward to the new season and chance to compete at a higher level than the year before, according to team members.

“We have an amazing group of girls this year, an amazing coaching staff and I couldn’t be more excited about this season,” Ireland said.

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