VIDEO: Jordan Taylor Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – For the third time in the four year history of the program, the Carson-Newman swim team will make the trip to the NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving Championships, this time bringing a program-best 13 student athletes to the event, which will be held from March 8th – 11th at the Birmingham CrossPlex in Birmingham, Ala.
"We're really excited," said swim coach Jordan Taylor. "After conference, there was a period where we were unsure who was going to nationals, but since we found out, the anticipation and excitement has been building. The energy levels have gone up. I spoke to the team on Saturday morning all about what we expect this week. I've been [to nationals] a couple of times with this team. There are members of the team who've been there couple times as well. For some of them it's their first trip and for the seniors it's their last swim meet ever. We're trying to focus on really enjoying the atmosphere that they'll have down there. I want the athletes to enjoy the experience and have no regrets."
On the men's side, sophomores Jonny Goss (Heiskell, Tenn.), Seth Hughes (Kingston, Tenn.), Jon Lancaster (Ringgold, Ga.), Pijus MacKevicius (Kaunas, Lithuania), Andrei Roman (Medias, Romania) and senior Sam Schechter (Knoxville, Tenn.) will be swimming at nationals. For the women, freshman Mary Northcutt (Huntsville, Ala.), sophomores Elly Culp (West End. N.C.) and Lisa Postma (Leiden, Holland), juniors Maggie Melhorn (Knoxville, Tenn.) Lexy Raybon (Sarasota, Fla.) and Margaret Stansberry (Knoxville, Tenn.) and senior Nancy Claire Smith (Franklin, Tenn.) all earned tickets to Birmingham.
Schechter, Roman, Melhorn, Raybon and Stansberry all earned spots in the individual races and C-N will also be participating in all 10 relays over the four day competition. Schechter will be battling for first place in the 50 free, an event he finished first in at the Bluegrass Mountain Conference Championships and also owns the Carson-Newman record for at 20.21. This will the senior's second trip to nationals. In 2015, he earned All-American honors as a member of the squad's 200 free relay team and also swam in the 50 free. Roman chance for a national championship will come in the 100 breaststroke after he posted a time of 54.74 in that race at the conference championships.
The only competitor on the women's side who will be making her first appearance at nationals is the freshman Northcutt. Stansberry will be swimming in the 200 individual medley, the 100 free and the 200 free, a race in which she earned All-American honors in 2016. This season, the Knoxville native has already broken the school record in that competition with a time of 1:48.21 and earned a gold medal at the BMC Championships. She is seeded fifth in the 200 free and seventh in the 100 free after putting up a time of 50.44 at the conference championships.
Melhorn will be part of the field in the 100 and 200 breaststroke after swimming national "B" qualifying times in both events at the BMC Championships. In the 100, she clocked in at 1:02.37, while registering a time of 2:17.19 in the 200. Raybon earned her ticket to Birmingham at the BMC Championships as well. She put up a time of 2:03.62 in the 200 fly to qualify for the competition.
C-N will also be fighting for first place in ten relays during the week. Last year, the crew of Melhorn, Smith, Stansberry and Raybon earned All-American honors in the 800 free relay with a time of 7:25.92. Melhorn, Stansberry and Culp also teamed with Samantha Starnes to clock in at 1:44.11 in the 200 medley relay, good enough to be selected as Honorable Mention All-Americans.
Culp, Postma, Lancaster and MacKevicius were also selected to nationals as alternates, meaning they could swim if an athlete withdraws from the meet.
"I'm really proud," said Taylor. "Not just of these 13, but of the whole team. We started in August with a goal of achieving top three at conference for both the men and the women and sending multiple athletes to nationals. They've put the hard work in since day one. They always had nationals in mind. I'm looking forward to this week, to supporting them and watching them do what they do."
Recaps of the action as well as results from all four days of competition in Birmingham will be published on cneagles.com.