The swimming and diving SEC Championships is unlike any meet all season. With 14 teams competing on the same pool deck, the energy is much higher than anything the swimmers experience during the regular season.
Swimmers can feed off of that energy, or it can get to their heads. For Alabama, the team wants to find a happy medium.
‘it’s all about managing the environment,” Alabama coach Dennis Pursley said. “Knowing when to turn it on and when to turn it off and how to do that. Those are things that obviously come with experience.”
The Crimson Tide swimming and diving teams travel to College Station, Texas, for this year’s SEC Championships.
This season, the women’s team is defined by its youth. The freshman class has been a key to sustaining the team’s success after it lost 10 swimmers from last year. The influx of youth is a big reason Alabama’s women defeated Auburn for the first time since 1996.
Still, the young swimmers have not experienced a meet like the SEC Championships. It’s easy to be intimidated by the noise and the expectations. The veteran members of the Crimson Tide have been trying to prepare the younger swimmers for the big stage.
“You don’t really realize how much pressure there is,” senior Mia Nonnenberg said. “Leaning on your teammates and knowing that we are all there for support and it’s just competing like we know how (to). That’s really what we’ve been telling them.”
Veterans like Nonnenberg and senior Matthew Adams from the men’s team are key in helping those freshmen get prepared. Their past experience helps them show the freshmen they are there for to achieve one goal.
“My freshman year, it did catch me off guard,” Adams said. “It’s really good to feed off of it, but at the same time, you have to keep the focus on doing it for the team.”
Last season, the men finished fourth while the women were 10th. Both teams are projected to finish seventh this week, but both teams believe they can finish higher.
“Based on how the season has gone and what we have shown, it’s exciting for us to go there and prove them wrong,” senior Hannah Musser said. “It’s a fun spot to be in, because they may not see us coming, but when we get there, they will not that (Alabama) arrived.”
Finishing high at the SEC Championships is easier said than done, however. The conference boasts eight top-25 teams in both the men’s and women’s rankings. Alabama sits at No. 17 in the men’s poll and No. 23 in the women’s poll.
“It’s been the best swimming conference in the country for a number of years,” Pursley said. “It’s stronger this year than it’s ever been.”
The SEC Championships start Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. and run until Saturday. The entire meet will broadcast on SEC Network Plus, until the finals on Saturday, which will be on the SEC Network.