BRISTOL, Tenn. – With most of its top performers returning from a season ago, the women's swimming and diving team looks to improve upon its sixth-place finish at the Appalachian Swimming Conference finals last year.
Senior Kelsey Wiese won the first individual conference title in school history last season, finishing first in the 100 meter backstroke while setting a school record in the event. She placed second in the 50 and 100 meter freestyle events. Wiese holds 13 school record times, including six in individual events, and will anchor a strong core of returners for the Tornado.
"Kelsey is a very talented swimmer," said head coach John Connor. "We're hoping that she can lower those times down and get close to an NCAA B-cut and lead us in a lot of ways."
Wiese headlines a group of four captains this season and is joined by fellow seniors Erin Vermillion, Shirley Langford, and Melissa Smith. Vermillion set three personal records in freestyle events last season while Langford was a member of four relay teams that set school records. Smith finished second in the conference in the one meter dive, setting a school record score in the process.
"Melissa has improved over the summer," commented Connor. "She definitely looks better than she has in the past, and she's very excited about competing. We're looking forward to seeing her set that record up there pretty high and be the conference champion."
Rachel Fuller, a sophomore, set school records as a member of five relay teams. Her performance in the 200 meter butterfly set a school record and was good for sixth place overall at the conference championships. Junior Jade Schroder will look to build on last season's solid performance, and was on the school-record 800 meter freestyle relay team last season.
One of the key newcomers on the team will be Olivia Langford, the sister of fellow swimmer Shirley Langford. A transfer from the University of North Florida, Langford will be called upon to make an immediate impact. "She's a proven champion, an NCAA D-I swimmer. She's showing it in practice and she's going to be a tough swimmer this year," said Connor. Fellow newcomers Nicole Maldonado and Samantha Vargo, both freshmen, will add much-needed depth to the sprinting events.
The team's goal will be to finish in the top four of the conference, break the school record in every relay event and increase the number of individual qualifiers for conference finals.
The team will open its season with a meet featuring Milligan, Thomas, and hosts Brenau in Gainesville, Ga. on September 28. Home meets will take place on November 15 against Emory & Henry College and November 22 against Warren Wilson College. The Appalachian Swimming Conference finals will be held from February 13-15, 2014 in Christiansburg, Va.