By (Ehsan Kassim)

After losing a full year of swimming last year, redshirt junior Bailey Scott feels she is back and better than ever, ready to return to the NCAA Championships to prove herself.

Scott suffered from thoracic outlet syndrome, which caused issues in her shoulder. She had surgery last November. Scott returned early and became the women in Alabama history to post a time under 22 seconds in the 50 freestyle and set the school record in the 100 freestyle.

Scott is one of the five individual women swimmers that will compete in the meet on March 15 in Indianapolis, Ind. representing the Crimson Tide.

“I came back a month and a half earlier than I was supposed to,” Scott said. “My support staff was incredible and my training staff got me back really fast. It was hard coming back, but I put work in and I am faster than ever. I think the surgery was a blessing in disguise.”

Scott will compete in the 50-meter freestyle, her favorite event, the 100-meter freestyle and the medley relay.

Scott feels she is well prepared for the NCAA’s this year because of the strong showing she has during the SEC’s. She looks forward to facing the top women in the country and doing well.

“Coming off the SEC’s, I’m kind of on a little high,” Scott said. “I didn’t expect to go that fast that soon, which was really exciting. I’m trying to take positivity into the NCAA’s. Obviously, I want to be faster, that’s everyone’s goal. I really think I can be faster and possibly get on that podium and be in the top 8.”

Junior and team captain Mia Nonnenberg agrees with Scott that the SEC Championship is good preparation for the NCAA meet.

“Being able to compete in the SEC’s helps a lot,” Nonnenberg said. “It’s one of the strongest conferences in the nation. Nationals is not very different, in terms of the competition we’ll be facing.”

Nonnenberg will be competing in the 500 freestyle as well as the 400-individual medley. She said this year will be a little different for her, as she’ll be doing more long distance races than she usually does.

The 400-indidual medley is her favorite, but she will be facing stiff competition. Katie McLaughlin, one of the top individual swimmers in the country and a member of the U.S. National Team.

While Scott and Nonnenberg should represent Alabama well in Indianapolis, head coach Dennis Pursley wishes he could have got more than five girls into the NCAA’s.

“We didn’t get as many women to the NCAA meets as we had hoped to,” Pursley said. “We have a small group of five girls. I say small, but it is actually the typical size other schools will be sending to the NCAA’s as well.”

Pursley emphasizes the importance of the girls doing the best they can while at NCAAs. He feels if his team does that, the results should take care of themselves.

At the same time, Pursley worries that having a smaller number of swimmers in this meet could put more pressure on the girls there to shoulder more responsibility on themselves. He hopes that is not the case and plans to speak with his team on this subject before the competitions begin.

He did, however, find an advantage of sending a smaller group to Indianapolis.

“The upside to small group more conducive to individual coaching,” Pursley said. “No one will get lost in the shuffle, as sometimes happens in a larger group. Obviously, we always prefer to send more girls, but there are some advantages that come with a smaller group.”

Despite the smaller group, Pursley wants the team to focus on taking advantage of the opportunities they are given in the tournament.

“That’s where our focus will be, trying to get school records,” Pursley said. “Lifetime best performances, focusing on the rare execution and try to get better and see where we end up as far as points scored and team standings. We have to do the best we can and let the outcome take care of itself.”

While Bailey and Nonnenberg both share Pursley’s disappointment that the team did not have a strong of an SEC tournament showing, they both feel confident with who will be there with them.

“I really do feel we have the best five swimmers going to represent the school,” Scott said. “I think we can all step up and perform well at the NCAA’s.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports