In last year’s SEC championship meet, the Alabama men’s swim team finished fourth behind Georgia, Auburn and Florida. In the current swimming rankings, all three of those teams are ranked ahead of the No. 10 Crimson Tide with Auburn at No. 7, Florida at No. 6 and Georgia at No. 5.
Just like the last couple of years, the Crimson Tide is the underdog in the group of these powerful programs, but the team feels that this year is the year.
“Every SEC meet I’ve been to, Alabama has been the dark horse,” junior Christopher Reid said. “Going into [the meet] I feel that we are the top dog. It’s going to take a valiant effort from us to win the meet, but it’s certainly obtainable.”
Last year, the Crimson Tide finished sixth in the country, which was the team’s highest finish since 1983. Junior Connor Oslin feels that that the top six finish showed how good Alabama’s team was, and is this year.
Recently, the SEC meet has been a springboard to the NCAA meet, meaning the meet is used to see how each swimmer stacks up against others before the championship. This year the team has a different goal: to be the SEC champion.
“Our focus last year was on the NCAA championships, and it paid off with a top six finish,” said Alabama head coach Dennis Pursley. “This year they [the men’s team] recognize that they are within reach of a championship victory. It’s going to come down to who wants it the most, and who can step up and execute.”
Alabama returns to the SEC meet with Oslin as the reigning 100-meter backstroke champion and the runner-up in the 200-meter backstroke. Also returning is Reid, who finished third in the 200-meter backstroke, and the reigning 400-meter relay team that was made up of Laurent Bams, Reid, Robert Howard and Kristian Gkolomeev.
“It’s just about focusing on my race and on what I need to do,” Oslin said. “You have to go out there and do your job. You just have to stay out of your own head and not letting the pressure get to you.”
This year, Pursley decided to change the schedule up to help preparation for the long, grueling week long meet. He had the usual Georgia Tech meet, but he added the senior day Florida State meet less than 24 hours later.
“The reason I like swimming in those meets is because it helps us to get mentally ready and fine-tuning different things,” Luke Kaliszak said.
The SEC meet is completely different than most other meets. The meet is five days long and has a huge following. For first-time racers it could be intimidating.
The men have four first time swimmers competing at the meet. Pursley tells his swimmers to just remain as relaxed as possible and even a little distracted.
“At the end of the day as coach [Nick] Saban always says ‘it’s about execution,’ ” Pursley said. “It’s about using the energy in your benefit. We need to keep the focus where it needs to be.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports