By (Anna Blake Atkinson)

This weekend 27 Alabama swimmers, 15 men and 12 women, are scheduled to go to the Bulldog Invite in Athens, Georgia. The lineup will include swimmers that attended the SEC Championship who are looking to get faster after another week of practice and swimmers who did not appear at the championship who will have a big performance opportunity.

“This is an annual meet that serves multiple purposes,” said Alabama coach Dennis Pursley. “It’s a mixed pack, but for the majority it is a reward for hard work.”

Emily Zapinski, junior from Dallas, Texas, followed her heart to the University of Alabama. She knew the program was great, the team was awesome and the future held big things for her at Alabama.

“The team is your family and that’s the most important thing,” Zapinski said.

This weekend Zapinski will swim the 200 freestyle, her favorite event, and the 100 fly. Excited for this weekend, she sees it as an incredible opportunity to swim fast and come together as a team.

“Swimming is an individual sport in a lot of ways, but when the focus is on the team it helps everyone do better. It makes it so much more fun,” Zapinski said.

Having a close race during a meet is some of Zapinski’s favorite memories. The whole team is on the side screaming and jumping and the best feeling is touching that wall.

“Our team is very good at winning close races,” Zapinski said.

The senior class of the Alabama swim team is the first class Pursley has coached all four years.

“It is the most special in that aspect,” said Pursley.

This group of seniors helped change the culture by getting the team back into the national competition level after being absent for a couple of decades.

Although the season is not over yet, Pursley said the team has definitely made progress. At the end of the season, Pursley and the staff will sit down to analyze and examine the results.

“We always do something different. If you don’t make changes, you’ll get the same results. We want to keep climbing the ladder,” Pursley said.

The women on the swim team have a candlelight tradition that will take place before the championship competitions. During which they will individually talk about the season then light their candle.

“One light can’t overpower the darkness, but when all our candles are lit we can overcome darkness together, meaning we can do anything as a team,” Zapinski said.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports