VIDEO: Jordan Taylor Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn – Following a successful regular season that saw them pick up wins in all four of their dual meets, break several school records and receive votes in the national polls, the Carson-Newman swim team will hit the road for its most important trip of the season as they head to the Mecklenburg Country Aquatic Center in Charlotte, N.C. for four days of competition at the Bluegrass Mountain Conference Championships, which will begin on Wednesday.
The women enter the BMC Championships ranked 22nd in the country, while the men received votes in the most recent College Swim Coaches Association of America poll, which was released on Feb. 1st.
"Our preparation has been going really well," coach Jordan Taylor said. "We've been working towards this since we got back on campus in August. The hard work is all done. The team has worked really, really hard and that hard work is going to pay off when we come into conference. We've been fine tuning our race skills and working on our relay transitions. We've been resting our athletes, making sure they feel good. The fatigue that they're used to throughout the season is gone. I don't think there's a team that's worked as hard as us this season. It's now just a matter of going there and showing them what the hard work was for."
In 2016, both squad's improved one spot on their finish from the previous year, with the women coming in third and the men placing fifth and both finishes representing program bests. C-N saw 23 of its student-athletes garner All-BMC honors and also broke 13 school records. The performance was also good enough to help the team earn a spot in the NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving Championships in March.
During the 2016-17 campaign, Taylor has had 29 different-student athletes win a race or be part of a winning relay team. Jon Lancaster (Ringgold, Ga.) and Maggie Melhorn (Knoxville, Tenn.) have been the most significant contributors, as they have each collected eight victories. Lancaster has finished first in six different events while Melhorn has won the 200 free, 200 breaststroke and 100 individual medley twice. They've also combined to break three C-N records.
Marcelo Figueiredo (Porto Alegre, Brazil) has seven W's to his credit and has been most successful in long distance events. He's bested the field in both the 500 free and 1000 free three times, while also setting new Carson-Newman bests in the 500 free and 1650 free. Margaret Stansberry (Knoxville, Tenn.) has added a half-dozen wins to her team's total and has been part of five triumphant relay quartets. Olivia Winkler (Marietta, Ga.) has been one of the team's best at the backstroke, with three of her five top finishes coming in the 200 back and Pijus MacKevicius (Kaunas, Lithuania) has won butterfly events five times, with three of those coming in the 100 fly.
This event could mark the final competition for seniors Nancy Claire Smith (Franklin, Tenn.), Katie Zientarski (Boca Raton, Fla.), Amanda Henderson (Bartlett, Tenn.), Landis Cranford (Greensboro, N.C.), Sam Schechter (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Josh Grover (Villa Rica, Ga.). These six seniors came to Carson-Newman as freshman in 2013 for the program's inaugural season and have helped the squad become one of the best in the nation in the course of just four seasons.
The most formidable opponent for the Eagles and the rest of the BMC in this competition will be the two-time defending national champion Queens (N.C.) Royals. Both their men and women captured the national title for the second straight season in 2016 and enter this meet as the presumptive favorites. The men own the top spot in the most recent CSCAA poll and the women are ranked second. The only other team from the BMC to claim a spot in the national rankings is Wingate. The Bulldogs have risen to the No. 7 spot on the women's side and sit at No. 10 in men's swimming.
"Queens and Wingate were the top two teams in the nation last year," Taylor said. "They've been the top two teams in the conference the last few years. They're really strong swim programs, but our intention is to get in there and push them for everything. If they're going to win, they're going to have to swim really fast to beat us. We're going to fight them for every point."
C-N will also be battling swimmers from Catawba College, Chowan University, Converse College, Davis and Elkins College, Fairmont State University, Johns Hopkins University, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Limestone College, Salem International University, the Savannah College of Art and Design and West Virginia Wesleyan University.
For updates, results and recaps of all four days in Charlotte, visit cneagles.com.