In her first season as Washington and Lee's Head Men's Swimming Coach, Kami Gardner looks to continue W&L's tradition of excellence by guiding the Generals to another strong finish in the Bluegrass Mountain Conference and qualifying individuals to the NCAA Division III Championships for the 14th-consecutive year.
W&L went 6-3 in dual meet competition and recorded a 16th-place finish at the NCAA Championships a year ago. Six individuals qualified for the NCAA meet and all earned All-America honors at the event. Only two return in 2012-13, but Gardner believes that the program will continue to reload.
"We are looking for the returners to continue to carry on the instilled tradition of excellence the Class of 2012 left behind," she said.
Coach Gardner believes the four members of the senior class will use the wisdom given by past athletes to create this success for the Generals, with senior captains Tyler Gehrs, Wayde Marsh and Rick Sykes leading the way.
Gehrs, Marsh and Sykes earned their leadership roles through their dedication to the team the past three seasons. Each have garnered All-Bluegrass Mountain Conference accolades and participated at the NCAA Championships.
During the 2011-12 campaign, Marsh and Sykes collected All-America laurels after swimming a leg of the 200 medley relay and the 400 medley relay teams that finished 10th and 15th, respectively, at the national meet. Those performances also set new school records.
Sykes also received All-America honors individually, placing 13th in the 50 free. Altogether, Marsh and Sykes own four W&L Top 10 times.
Joining the three captains as a member of the senior class is Will Ericson. Ericson competed at the BMC Championships during his sophomore and junior seasons, culminating with season-best times at both meets.
"All four seniors will contribute to the success of our team this season," noted Gardner. "They understand the work ethic and dedication it takes to achieve success at the highest level."
"We are excited to watch the progress of our juniors this year," said Gardner. "They have the ability to make a huge impact on the team this season both in and out of the pool."
Ireland and Shuman both collected All-BMC honors as first-years and scored in the BMC Championships as sophomores. Knuth and Shuman also bring experience to the pool, as each competed at the conference meet during their first two years. Between the four, they hold nine W&L Top 10 times in seven events.
"Alex and Chase will continue to make waves in the freestyle and backstroke events," commented Gardner. "After scoring at the conference meet last season as first-year swimmers, we expect them both to contribute to the success of the program."
At the BMC Championships last season, Flint finished 16th in the 200 free and 500 free, while Cram registered season-best times in the 200 back, 500 free and 1000 free. During the season, Cram and Flint displayed potential for great careers with event wins and scoring finishes at numerous meets.
The Generals roster of already proven talent will receive an additional boost from a talented group of nine newcomers, who will attempt to make a significant impact in their rookie campaigns.
"The first-years have come into the season ready to compete for opening spots," noted Gardner. "They are in the fray in terms of competitiveness and we look forward to taking advantage of their already established talents."
In high school, Fox helped lead RJ Reynolds High to three conference championships and was named the 4A Central Piedmont Conference Swimmer of the Year, while also being a three-time North Carolina Swimming All-Star. Pritchard was a member of the record-setting 200 free relay at Memorial High School and was a three-time second team all-state selection. Sigmon led Cardinal Gibbons High School to four-consecutive North Carolina State titles, along with holding state records in the 200 medley relay and 400 free relay.
With a group of talented returners and newcomers, the Generals have specific goals they are looking to reach.
"We are always focusing on making it to the NCAA Championships," commented Gardner. "With the work ethic, determination and leadership on this team, I believe we will reach our team and individual goals."
The Generals will test out the national competition early on with meets against Centre and Mary Washington, who finished 37th and 51st, respectively, in the nation last season. W&L will also preview some of its Bluegrass Mountain Conference foes when it heads to Charlotte, N.C., to face Wingate, Queens, Limestone, Catawba and Gardner Webb on November 2.
W&L opens the season on Saturday, October 13, when it travels to Louisville, Ky., to face Centre at 2:30 pm.
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