The Ashland University swimming and diving teams will take to the pool for the first time on Saturday (Oct. 28) at 3 p.m. with a dual meet against John Carroll at the Messerly Natatorium.
The Eagles come into the season with high expectations, looking to build on their first season under head coach Ron Allen, who joined the program last fall, not long before the season.
"With one year under their belt with me, buying into the system and my style of coaching. That's happening now," said Allen. "I'm very excited about the stroke technique we're teaching this year that is on the cutting edge. They're really glomming onto that and getting excited about it. It's showing in their training."
The Eagles are itching to get back into the pool in a competitive way and that will finally happen on Saturday.
"There are several GLIAC teams that have already had one or two competitions," said Allen. "So I'm going to going to be posting some of the top times and I think some of their jaws are going to drop with some of the fast swims that are already happening out there. I think they're very antsy to get some competitions under their belt."
The Eagles are now fully-acclimated to Allen's coaching style and workout techniques, which have included much more in the way of dry-land workouts and more enhanced and specific stroke training.
"This year we started with a lot of dry-land and crossfit style workouts," said senior Christophoer Georgiadis. "What that essentially does is whip everybody into shape really fast. Through that process we were able to get back into the pool pretty strong."
Prior to pool practice sessions, Allen will also train his athletes in the classroom in order to nail down the finest points of each swimming stroke.
"It's so helpful to have that classroom session before our swim session," senior Zoe Scarpone. "We get to look at videos of elite swimmers, elite Olympic-level athletes, and look at their form and see how they're doing stuff. It's about finding what works for you."
"We're really working on stroke technique and stroke breakdown, making sure everybody's strokes are fluid rather than throwing yardage at people," Georgiadis said.
The goal remains to continue to improve week-to-week and carry that progress into the conference meet in February where the Eagles hope to have more swimmers scoring in each event.
"We want to start the tradition of having more people scoring in conference," said Allen. "All they need to do is improve 10-15 percent each. If they do that, we're going to have twice as many people in scoring positions, twice as many people in the top eight vs. the top 16. That's going to be noticeable."
Allen said his swimmers will swim tired throughout the season with the only tapering of workouts to come prior to the postseason events.
"Last year he said he was easing us into it, because of his training regimen and it was his first year," said Scarpone. "But now he's really hitting it hard and we've been doing a lot of yards. We're embracing it."
The team has no shortage of experience in the pool with 11 seniors on the roster between the men and women. In fact, the Eagles have seven captains on the roster.
"We made a change with that this year. We went with a larger group of captains," said Allen. "It's the first time I've ever done that and I'm glad we did. This team has a lot of different personalities and these upperclassmen are not ones that I recruited. I've been excited to work with them and they've all been doing a very good job."
The captains have been responsible for organizing team activities and communicating with the team and coaching staff.
"I think the most important thing we've done is get everyone involved," said Georgiadis. "We've taken it upon ourselves to make sure that we have these team bonding events and we support each and every person on the team. We're keeping a positive attitude. When you're practicing with the same people every day all the time it's important to stay positive."
The Eagles are hoping with their work and positivity, success will come their way. Ashland did not have a swimmer advance to the NCAA Championships last season and the goal is to change that this year.
"The one thing I've proven at other universities and that we'll do here is that we're not just recruiting fast swimmers. We're not just recruiting great divers," said Allen. "We're recruiting people that fit in to what we're trying to build: a family environment, a support group, class acts, good citizens. Team chemistry is far more important."
The first look at the Eagles will come on Saturday, followed by a home tri-meet with Findlay and Tiffin next Friday (Nov. 3).