GREENSBORO, N.C.-In the first meet of the season, a pair of North Carolina A&T swimmers set a high bar, establishing personal bests. But the speedy times posted by junior Lauren Bowling and senior Carolyn Pratt weren't the only great beginnings.
A freshman and a number of sophomores also performed well, helping the Aggies to a strong start on Friday night at Corbett Sports Center. The Aggies lost to Campbell University, 156-40, in a 13-event meet.
"I think it's an excellent start," said Head Coach Shawn Hendrix, who is managing the youngest swimming team in her 13 seasons at the helm of the program. "It's going to be a long season, and there are going to be some growing times, but this was an excellent tempo to start at."
Bowling was able to shake off season opener jitters without a problem, and took first place in the 100- yard butterfly with a personal best time of 1:01.17, while freshman Danielle Jackson finished first in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1.12.25.
Sophomore Christian Hill finished third in the 500-yard freestyle with a 5:44.95 time. Despite not feeling well prior to the meet, Pratt posted a personal-best time of 30.94 in the 50-yard free.
"Individually, the ladies were swimming more events than some of the other ladies, and that kind of surfaced, but they really worked on staying focused," Hendrix said. "There's still some growing to do, but a lot of good work occurred tonight."
Bowling and Jackson were also excited by the team's performance against Campbell. "Everyone did really well, and I think we exceeded expectations," Bowling said. While Jackson noted, "I'm really proud of myself today, and I think we did good as a team as well."
Hendrix added that a majority of the team met the Meet Goals they had set for themselves. Bowling's work in developing her kick in pre-event drills paid off, as evidenced by her strong butterfly performances. Jackson said she's been working on perfecting her skills in practice, doing the little things right even when she's too tired to make sure they become habitual.
While the team had several strong showings in individual races, the Aggies also performed well in relays. The Aggies had relay squads finish fourth and sixth in the 200-yard medley relay, while relay teams in the 200-yard freestyle finished fifth, sixth and seventh.
Bowling swam a 26.90 butterfly leg in the 200-yard medley relay, the fastest butterfly leg amongst all six heats.
"Relays really bring the team together," Hendrix said, and Bowling also noted that the relays are exciting and add adrenaline and support from teammates. But even with all the positives that came out of their season opener, Hendrix and the swimmers were already thinking about what they need to do to improve for their next meet.
"We need to work on exchanges and finishing up the last 12 ½," Hendrix said. "We'll work on approaching the finish race strong and being more consistent in starts."
Jackson added that she wants to keep working on dropping her time in the 100-yard breaststroke, and improving her backstroke leg portion of the 200 IM relay.
"We have a lot of room to grow as a team and we can grow together," Jackson said. Hendrix said, "There's nowhere to go but up."