2017-18 IN REVIEW: The Ashland University swimming & diving teams each finished fifth at the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships with the women jumping three spots from their 2017 finish while the men moved up from sixth place the previous year.
BUILDING BACK UP: The Eagles will continue the process of reloading and building the program back to regional and national prominence as head coach Ron Allen enters his third season as head coach.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2018-19: With their marked improvement last season in the GLIAC Championships, the Eagles hope to continue that climb this year and send one or more individuals to the national meet.
Last year, Ashland had five NCAA provisional cuts, but none of them were quite fast enough to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Four of those marks were set by graduated senior Grace Reichard, who was a major scorer on the women's side at the GLIAC meet.
Asked about the biggest takeaway from last season, Allen replied, "Just in general the improvement at conference. You've heard it a few times, but the overall team attitude and atmosphere was night and day. That was probably the biggest takeaway."
Now it is up to the returning talent and a group of newcomers to continue the rise. As late as 2014, both the men's and women's teams finished in the top 20 at the NCAA Championships meet.
With Allen in his third year, he has the confidence of the program's returners and newcomers to see improved times and higher finishes across the board.
"Its about communication, communication, communication," Allen said. "Just making sure we're doing a good job of educating them on everything that's coming at them, calendar-wise, training-wise, why we're doing what we're doing. That's very important, especially these days."
The training program Allen has instilled will see some tweaks this season, but nothing major as the program continues its course to get back to the national level. The rise has been slower than Allen had hoped, but there is only optimism in the program as the proof from last year's improvement serves as a reminder.
"With having (assistant coach) Kyle (Walthall) and myself on the recruiting trail consistently, where we haven't had that before, will pay off in spades," Allen said. "The buy-in, reeducation and continued education will continue to pay off."
The Eagles will also have one of the top minds in swimming, Ernie Maglischo, coming to visit the program early in the school year. Much of Allen's training regimen is based on Maglischo's teaching.
"At the beginning of the season, we're going to be fortunate by having a top-notch clinician come in to talk to our team at the beginning of the season," said Allen. "Having Ernie Maglischo come here, the hallmark behind some of our training, will give validation to what we're doing."
Allen is also excited about the class of athletes coming into the program this season. The expectations for success will be high.
"The class coming in, in general, is not as deep as we want it to be, but it's very top heavy," said Allen. "We have several that are going to make a big impact in conference and possibly nationals."
But once the students are back, the real work starts.
"I chuckle because notoriously our freshman class comes in much better shape than our upperclassmen, that's just the nature of the beast," Allen said. "A lot of that is because upperclassmen are usually working a job or internships. We don't have kids that are on full-ride scholarships, so it's going to vary tremendously based on who has the time and the access to facilities to be in good swimming shape coming back in."