The UNC Asheville women’s swimming and diving team broke multiple scoring records and added a diving team to the squad, resulting in one of the most successful season’s in the team’s history.
“To me it was the best season we’ve had as a team,” said Madison-Grace Bristow, senior swimmer for the Bulldogs. “We competed very well this year.”
Katie Brown, another senior on the team, agrees the swimming team looked stronger than ever this season.
“I feel like this season the team was the strongest we’ve ever been,” Brown said. “We scored the highest we ever had at our conference championship and we moved up in places.”
The Bulldogs shattered their former best conference championship score with a record-breaking 820 team points. Their previous record breaking score was 633 team points back in 2017.
“We wanted to be on the podium and conference for the 800 freestyle relay and we did it,” Brown said. “That was the highlight of conference.”
To make the podium a team has to place top three in the event, and while the Bulldogs have had individual swimmers make the podium, they never make the relay.
According to Brown, a large part of the team is improvement was the addition of a strong freshman class.
“They’re all amazing ladies all fit amazingly well on the team.” she said.
Haley Bennison recognized the difficulties of adding a freshman class.
“We came in this year with 10 freshman which comes with its own challenges and a lot of different personalities, so one of our goals was to just make them feel comfortable and get them into the swing of things,” the senior said. “They absolutely thrived.”
The addition of the diving team also played a large role in the record breaking year, according to Head Coach Elizabeth Lykins.
“One of our goals was to effectively add diving,” Lykins said.
Without diving, the Bulldogs were leaving major points off the board. Swimming works like track and field, with multiple events a team can enter which earn them points.
“Think about track and field, if you don’t put anybody up for the shot put you get zero points in it, you might have the best miler or the best javelin thrower but if you don’t put anyone up for the event you don’t score any points,” Lykins said. “So think of that as diving if you just don’t put up any divers you get zero points.”
Lykins was named CCSA Co-Coach of the Year after this year’s championships. Many players on the Bulldogs credit Lykins as their main reason for choosing UNCA as the place they wanted to swim on the college level.
“Coach has been a really fantastic mentor to me and I’m so thankful,” Brown said. “She was actually the reason I came to UNC Asheville because I had the best relationship with her and she’s just such a great coach and a great person.”
Bristow felt a better connection with Lykins than she did with other coaches from schools she had talked to.
The swimming team was founded in 2012. With such a young team, an experienced coach and a good team environment is important for bringing in strong freshman classes. According to Brown, the Bulldogs have both.
“Sometimes you can see there’s a very big difference between that atmosphere of our team and then another team because were so involved and so high energy,” Brown said. “Whenever we have someone swimming in the pool we like to have two or three people behind the block cheering for them.”