After finishing in the top 10 at the 2015, 2016 and 2017 NCAA meet for the first time since 2013, the Alabama men’s swim team had a little bit of a back slide, finishing tied at 13th last season.
The men’s team also lost some of its leading swimmers from last year’s team to graduation, including Christopher Reid and Luke Kaliszak. At the SEC Championships, Reid won the 200-yard backstroke for the second-straight year, while Kaliszak finished second in the 100-yard backstroke.
Coach Dennis Pursley doesn’t think there will be too much of a drop off this season in the backstroke because of junior Zane Waddell.
“Ironically, Zane Waddell won the 50 and 100 backstroke in the South African Trials,” Pursley said. “We have a very good freshman backstroker on board in Spencer Walker. He’s going to have to develop to the level that Connor (Oslin) and Luke and those guys, but Zane is knocking on the door and is right there.”
Waddell had a huge summer. He qualified for the 2018 FINA World Short Course Swimming Championships by winning the 50- and 100-meter backstrokes and placing second in the 50 and 100-meter freestyles at the South African Trials.
The men also returns Robert Howard, who competed in the U.S. Nationals during the summer. Howard finished third in the 50-yard freestyle at last year’s SEC Championships.
On the women’s side, the Crimson Tide finished 30th at the NCAA Championships, which was the third top-30 finish in the last four years. It scored 23 points, which is the most the women’s team has scored since 2015.
“The biggest challenge is going to be to replace the points we’ve lost through graduation on our sprint relays, and that’s where we’ve scored the bulk of the points,” Pursley said.
The women’s team is young with 14 freshmen and 11 sophomores, but Pursley doesn’t see a problem with the inexperience.
“I think not only does this year’s class bring a lot of talent to the table, but a lot of maturity and a lot of enthusiasm,” Pursley said. “These are girls who are coming aboard who have their sights set at the Olympic level. They’re coming on board with an attitude where they’re ready to make any sacrifice and do whatever is necessary for them to be the best that they can be.”
Alabama kicks off its season with a dual meet on Friday against Delta State. It’s the sixth straight year that the Crimson Tide will start the NCAA season.