GREENSBORO-It was a festive atmosphere in Corbett Sports Center on Friday night. The North Carolina A&T swimming team was celebrating not only Carolyn Pratt's Senior Night and Erika Eiseman's 20th birthday, but also their five first-place finishes in its meet against Radford. While the Aggies (2-14) lost to the Highlanders by a 159-79 final, the Aggies had 12 swimmers place in the Top 3 in the 12 events they raced.
But more important than their strides in the pool, were their strides on the deck, said head coach Shawn Hendrix.
"We really had some good races, but the most imperative thing that happened that a lot of people really couldn't see at the pool, were the sideline activities," Hendrix said. "The sideline conversations that we had today, there was a lot of thinking going on."
She added that her team is doing more to self-evaluate right after events, which is helping them be more prepared mentally for their races. And signs of that improvement and mental readiness were in the swimmers' success, and their ability to make adjustments throughout the meet.
Freshman Danielle Jackson left the pool with a pair of first-place times in the 50 and 100-yard breaststrokes, clocking in at 33.55 and 1:13.65. Sophomore Christian Hill won the 200-yard freestyle with time of a 2:10.03, and junior Lauren Bowling captured first in the 50-yard butterfly with a 27.95 finish.
The Aggies 'A' Relay team (Hill, Bowling, Eiseman and Jackson) won the 200-meter medley relay with time of a 2:00.04.
The Aggies started off the match with back-to-back first place finishes in the 200-meter medley relay and the 200-yard freestyle. Hill's 32.26 tempo that she swam in the 50-yard backstroke portion of the 200-meter medley relay helped set up her fast run in the 200-yard freestyle, said Hendrix.
A&T followed that event with a third-place finish by Bowling in the 50-yard backstroke. Jackson then took the 50-yard breaststroke, and A&T had two third-place finishers in the following events. In the next set of races, Jackson and Bowling each had a first-place run and Eiseman and Hill each had a third place finish.
Pratt and sophomore Courtney Wilkins also set season-bests in the 50-yard freestyle, finishing in 31.17 and 31.40 seconds respectively. Right now, Hendrix has the team where they need to be mentally with their focus on self-evaluation and improvement. Some of their ability to adjust during the meet came from their practices this week.
"We had some practices this week that's called an overcorrection," Hendrix said. "So I would put them in situations to force them to swim wrong, for them to know the difference of panic mode swimming compared to fluid swimming. When you make a swimmer swim like they're eighth and they're panicking and everything, they want to go back to going to that lengthened swimming."
Eiseman made those kind of adjustments in the last leg of the 200-meter medley relay on Friday, and that enabled her to touch the wall at 0.35 seconds faster than the Radford relay team, and to get the Aggies started with a first-place win.
"She committed to not being choppy, she committed to staying long and that's why she touched her out of the race," Hendrix said. "You could see the other girl become choppy, you could see [Eiseman] keeping that distance per stroke."
The Aggies will look to build upon their success in their next dual match, which will be at Campbell on Friday, Jan. 27 at 4 p.m.