GREENSBORO-Head coach Shawn Hendrix worked with one of the youngest teams in her tenure at North Carolina A&T during the 2011-12 season. This upcoming swim season, the team will be even younger as the program welcomes seven new members to the team in the 2012 recruiting class.
The Aggies welcome Kenya Dunn (Charlotte, N.C., Providence Day School, Freestyle), Jade Hill (Laurel, Md., Laurel High, Butterfly/Breaststroke), Niya Ross (Captiol Heights, Md., Annapolis Senior High, Freestyle/Butterfly), Miranda Jacobs (Baltimore, Md.,Baltimore School for the Arts, Backstroke), Aarica Carrington (Baltimore, Md., Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Freestyle/Breaststroke), Dominique Crable (Philadelphia, Pa., Girls High, Freestyle/Breaststroke) and Amane Hand-Solomon (Dover, Del., Dover High, Freestyle/Butterfly) to the program as the Class of 2016.
And Hendrix couldn't be more pleased with her latest class, the largest in her 13-year tenure, and arguably one of the most talented. What is even more intriguing about the speedy freshmen is that they have all seen each other before in competition, some even swimming on the same club teams for years.
"Most of them have competed against each other since they were 7 years old," said Hendrix. "So to be able to take that competitive drive they have and transfer into a daily practice is imperative to transition the program to where I want it to be."
Hendrix even saw some of her recruits compete over Memorial Day weekend at the 10th Annual National Black Heritage Championship Swim Meet and was impressed by not only their performance in the pool, but the sportsmanship they displayed as they congratulated each other after races.
Adding the dynamic of Hendrix's recruiting class is the nine returning swimmers. The freshmen will be challenging the returners for starting spots, and Hendrix said that her swimmers will be competing week in and week out for spots on the relay teams. The 2012-13 A&T swimming team features one senior - Lauren Bowling - three sophomores and five juniors.
"This will be a very different season. I'm positive we're going to be the quiet storm and really surprise quite a few teams in our conference," Hendrix said. "The opportunity to utilize more depth, skill, and ability to adapt changes the whole dynamics of my lineup."
Dunn, who was the co-captain of the Queen City Dolphins club swimming team, holds the Providence Day school records in the 200 freestyle relay and the 400 freestyle relay. She posted a 26.49 time in the 50-yard freestyle and a 57.75 time in the 100-yard freestyle this spring-both times rival some of the top times hit by A&T swimmers this past season.
"She had a lot of opportunities to go to really big Division I schools but she really wanted to come to a historically black school," said Hendrix. "Out of the group, if I was going to put them in a who could possibly attain B NCAA cuts list, she is on it. She's a hard worker... she's very level-headed and focused."
Hill, a member of the Retriever Aquatic Club and standout swimmer on the Laurel High team, competed in the Maryland State 4A/3A Championships. She posted a 1:12.45 time in the 100-yard breaststroke and a 1:09.13 time in the 100-yard butterfly. During the season, she has also posted best times of 1:05.5 in the 100-yard butterfly and a 1:11.1 in the 100-yard breaststroke-times that would be competitive in a college meet.
"She's a pretty good butterflier but she's a really strong breaststroker. I really expect her breaststroke to really explode with the training and the technique that she's going to get," Hendrix said of Hill. "She really carries a very positive, vibrant vibe. She's ready to work. She brings a lot of enthusiasm."
Ross posted a 1:04.67 time in the 100-yard butterfly in the Maryland State 4A/3A Championships in February. She finished the 100-yard freestyle in 56.46 and the 100-yard butterfly in 1:04 in competition this season. That's faster than any 100-yard freestyle result an A&T swimmer posted last season.
"Niya is, I would probably say with her, is the most competitive. She just loves to race. She loves to compete," Hendrix said.