By (Cody Estremera)

An appearance at a conference championship always gives athletes nerves, especially the first time they experience it. The crowd, the expectations and the length of the pool make the SEC championship meet tough for the swimmers involved. Experience is a huge help and the Alabama women’s swim team has plenty of experience.

The Crimson Tide is bringing a total of 22 athletes to compete, including 17 swimmers who have experienced the meet before. Some of the participants that have SEC experience include Bridget Blood, who finished second in the 100-meter breaststroke, Mia Nonnenberg, the captain who scored in three events last year, and Temarie Tomley, who scored in four events last year. The Crimson Tide also returns the school record-holding 800-meter 
freestyle relay team.

“I think the biggest thing [preparing for the SECs] was not to focus too much on the pressure,” Nonnenberg said. “It’s more about going in for the team and not worrying about any other girls that are there. Just focus on racing the girl next to you.”

The team is going into the meet with a different mindset than in previous years. Instead of trying to earn a certain ranking, the team is focused on individual events.

“We are looking at our capabilities and seeing where we can finish,” Tomley said. “It’s about how well we can do and how good can we be. We need to see if we can hit our best and even go past it.”

Just like the men’s swim team, the women feel like they are an underdog, and others haven’t really seen them as a 
threat — yet.

“We’ve been that up-and-coming team and trying to get that break,” Nonnenberg said. “We want to break through the surface and be one of the top contending teams in the SEC. Our biggest goal is to establish ourselves, and scaring some of the top dogs.”

Seniors are the key athletes that bring the experience to the team. The women’s team has five seniors on the team. The class is a notable one for head coach Dennis Pursley.

This class was the first group of athletes that Pursley brought into Alabama. The seniors embraced the culture he wanted to instill in the program, with the core values of attitude, character and commitment. Under his tenure, Alabama has regained national attention, and the women’s team has finished the last two seasons ranked.

“The last three years have just been building up to this,” Blood said. “There are a lot less nerves and a lot more excitement. I’m ready to leave my mark with the team.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports