GEORGETOWN – After seeing improvement in each of his first two seasons, Head Coach Jon Duncan, is expecting even more out of his men's and women's swimming and diving teams this year.
The Southwestern University swimming and diving teams continue to take large leaps and, after nearly tripling in roster size, Duncan is seeing strength in numbers. Adding 10 first-year student-athletes on the men's squad and 12 on the women's team, Duncan believes the competition in early season practices has been the toughest he has seen during his tenure.
"I feel like both of our programs are on the rise," Duncan said. "We have really started to develop some depth on our teams and we needed that. Our upperclassmen are learning how to be leaders and it has helped our entire team start to find their role."
Learning the roles shouldn't be a problem for the Pirate men who have set an exact goal entering the season. Win the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship.
For the Pirate men, boasting scorers in the top eight at every meet is also a goal which has Duncan leaning on the experience from his returners. Starting with the depth the Pirates boast entering the season will help; however, looking at the schedule it is easy to see Duncan wants to push this year's squad.
"We intentionally set up a very tough schedule," Duncan said. "Competing in every competition is a top priority, but I want our teams to know we're not just satisfied with just competing. Stepping up the competition makes not only the meets more exciting, but the intensity in practice is higher than it has ever been too."
There is no doubt the Pirates will swim against some of the top teams in the nation as Duncan scheduled meets at NCAA Division I Incarnate Word in San Antonio and the University of Arkansas Little Rock. Southwestern will get two early season tests when the Pirates host McMurry on November 9 and travel to Oklahoma Baptist on November 15 – OBU was the NAIA National Champions last year as the Bison men claimed their second straight while the women won their first title.
The Pirate women are also growing as they continue to take steps in the right direction.
"We have great senior leadership with our women," Duncan said. "They are battling each day to reach their daily goals, weekly goals and season goals. We even have a few women that challenge the men in practice and that's fun to see."
While Duncan continues to stress the different roles each individual will play this season, his Pirates enter early season practice ahead of last year's progress.
"The preparation our men and women have put in this off-season has us so much better prepared," Duncan said. "A lot of credit needs to be given to our strength and conditioning coach, Doug Ross. His addition has helped all of our teams and I think our swimmers have benefited as much as anyone."
"Being a successful swimmer isn't always about being the fastest. They are becoming more athletic and better athletes with Coach Ross' help too."
Duncan knows the tolls of a long season but mentions the fun his staff is having with this group but doesn't want to limit expectations.
"Teaching kids a way of life and not having a sub-par work ethic may be our underlying theme," Duncan said. "This is a really fun group to work with and it shows during practice. Each person is pushing the person next to them and if we can learn our role within the team, this can be a special group."