RADFORD, Va.-The North Carolina A&T swimming team finished in tenth place in the three-day Highlander Invitational at Radford University with eight points, but made some strong progress in setting the best possible times to turn into the CCSA for championships, setting new season-best times in 10 events.
"We did really well, I'd say that 100 percent, that everybody dropped times in at least one event," said Head Coach Shawn Hendrix. "It was a long three or four days to stay together, but it went brilliantly. The way the team came together not having their normal support staff was impeccable. To succeed the way we did, I'm extremely pleased about that."
The Aggies (2-13) faced stiff competition amongst the nine other teams, as 18 new meet records were set in the course of the three-day event. At the end of the Highlander Invitational, Campbell was in first place with 673 points, Liberty in second with 666.5, and Georgia Southern in third with 619. St. Francis (Pa.), University of North Florida, Youngstown State, Mount St. Mary's, Radford and Millersville on Thursday and Friday, who rounded out the fourth through ninth place spots. Campbell's win came on a Liberty DQ in the final event of the meet, the 400-yard medley race.
The N.C. A&T team earned season-best times in the 200-yard freestyle relay, 400-yard medley relay, 500-yard freestyle, 50-yard freestyle, and the 200-yard IM on Thursday.
On Saturday, A&T continued to set new season-best times, including in the 200-yard backstroke, 100-yard freestyle, 200-yard breaststroke, 200-yard butterfly and 400-yard freestyle relay.
"It was a really good meet, and it was just like championships, where it's three days and you swim in the morning and then at night," Hendrix said. "They did all the small things I asked them to do-stretching, eating, and warming up three heats before their races."
The Aggies' success this early in the season in dropping time has them very excited for competing in the CCSA championships in February. The Aggies have three more meets in the regular season, all of which come in January.
"We are exactly where we need to be to attain our goals," Hendrix said.
On Saturday, Hill beat her seed time with a 2:25.28 finish in the preliminaries of the 200-yard backstroke, setting a new season-best in that event. Sara Simmons also swam the 200-back, and finished in 41st place with a 3:24.37 final time.
Jackson placed 58th in the preliminaries for the 100-yard freestyle, clocking in at 58.74 on Saturday. Eiseman also competed in that event, and knocked 33 seconds off her seed time, finishing the race in 1:00.03, her fastest time in that event this season. Jefferson and Jaquline Maxwell also competed in the 100-yard freestyle preliminaries, and finished at 1:02.86 and 1:35.98 respectively. It was Jefferson's fastest finish in that race this season, and Maxwell, a walk-on swimmer, dropped 30 seconds off her time in that event, Hendrix said.
"Lauren Bowling and Danielle Jackson went back for finals on the third day, which is the hardest day to go," Hendrix said. "Danielle dropped two seconds in the 200 breast and Lauren dropped four seconds in the 200 fly."
Jackson bested her seed time in the 200-yard breaststroke Saturday afternoon, an event which she won on Oct. 29. She finished the event in 2:42.30 in the finals race, her best time in that event this season.
In the finals of the 200-yard butterfly on Saturday, Bowling finished the race in 21st place with a 2:17.52 finish, beating her seed time by nearly four seconds. It marked another season-best time for her.
The Aggies collected four more points in with a 15th place finish in the 400-yard freestyle relay. The A relay team finished that event (which was the last one of the meet) in 3:59.32 time, which was a dramatic improvement over their 4:53.74 final time in the 400-yard freestyle relay on Nov. 5.
Eiseman had a stress knot in her shoulder on the final day, so she was unable to swim with the rest of the A relay team on Saturday, Hendrix said. She added that Jefferson stepped up and swam in the 200-freestyle and 400-freestyle relays on the final day.
But Eiseman was not the only A&T swimmer dealing with injuries at the meet.
"Two days before we leave, Courtney Wilkins rolls her ankle in the weight room," Hendrix said, adding that while she was reluctant to let Wilkins travel and compete with the team, Wilkins wanted to go, and the trainers advised her how to stay off her ankle in her turns. Wilkins told Hendrix that she had been working too hard to not compete. Wilkins' presence and dedication was inspirational to the team, and her performance helped her develop as a swimmer, Hendrix said.
"She's one of our strongest kickers on the team, and it was an opportunity for her to focus on pulling and using her upper body strength," Hendrix said. "It was a good morale builder, and brought closeness to the team."
But Wilkins did feel the effects of being without her kicking strength, as she went five seconds slower than her fastest 100-yard freestyle, and about four seconds slower than her fastest 50-yard freestyle this season in those events at the Highlander Invitational.
The Aggies have some time off, as their next meet is not until Friday, Jan. 20, 2012. They will host Radford at the Senior Meet at Corbett Sports Center starting at 5 p.m. It will be their second and final home meet of the season.