GREENSBORO-It has been a long season for the young North Carolina A&T swimming team, who began their season in September and just ended it in mid-February. After capping it off with several goal-surpassing performances at the Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association Championships from Feb. 16-18, head coach Shawn Hendrix took some time out to reflect upon the season and her plans for the 2012-13 season.
The 2011-12 team was the youngest that Hendrix has led in her 13 seasons with the program, featuring eight sophomores, a freshman, and three walk-on athletes in her 13-person roster.
"We had a lot of growing moments. I'm confident that some of the character building we did will be the fundamental foundation for next year," Hendrix said. "Everyone, including the freshman, had a clear understanding of the direction and the expectations of the program."
And those expectations came to fruition from Feb. 16-18 at the CCSA Championships.
"Out of three individuals, I think most people swam at least two relays if not three, most of them met at least two of their individual goals and one of their relay goals at championships," Hendrix said. "So at least they reached, individually, 80 percent of their goals."
Several of the Aggies not only set season-best times but career-best times at the Gabrielsen Natatorium in Athens, Ga.
Lauren Bowling went 55 seconds in the 400 free relay, the fastest she's ever swam in that event. She also went her fastest in the 100 fly with a 1:00.28 finish. Erika Eiseman made her goal time in the 100 free with a time of 55.75. Aarin Miles dropped time in her 50 breast stroke and Miles stepped up and swam in the A relay team. Akaela [McGinty] went back down to 1:03 in her 100 free.
But for Hendrix, the student-athlete who perhaps had the best meet was walk-on sophomore LaBraya Milton.
"LaBraya wasn't eligible first semester but that was because she had knee surgery in the spring and she was out and we knew that. She came in swimming the 50 free in a 40. She went a 28.35 in championships," Hendrix said. "So her consistency, her dedication, her focus - her foundation that she had prepared escalated at the end - so that was nice."
Looking back, the Aggies saw tremendous growth not only in setting season-highs at championships, but winning against conference opponents. The Aggies defeated VMI twice in consecutive meets in the beginning of the season. They also had several outstanding individual performances.
Junior Bowling and freshman Jackson placed first in the season opener in the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard breaststroke respectively. Bowling also took first in the 100 and 200-yard butterfly at the meet on Oct. 29 against VMI and Howard. She competed in the 100 and 200-yard butterfly final heats at the Highlander Invitational at Radford on Nov. 17.