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The Battalion

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Home pool advantage

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Photo by Photo by Jesse Everett

Texas A&M men’s and women’s swimming and diving are ranked No. 9 and No. 1, respectively.

For the first time since the 2013 season, the Texas A&M swimming and diving teams will host the Southeastern Conference Championships from Feb. 14-18 at the Recreation Center Natatorium.
The women hope to notch their third consecutive SEC Championship win, while the men are looking to improve on last year’s 7th place finish. The men are currently ranked No. 9, while the women hold the No. 1 spot.
With the meet being held at home in College Station, swimmers and coaches alike said they expect an incredible atmosphere.
“Our team is big and it’s exciting to say that I really do believe that everyone’s going to swim very fast,” senior Bethany Galat said. “What makes it special is that it’s not only here, but it’s here my senior year and SECs is probably one of my favorite meets. It just creates such an incredible team atmosphere because every day matters, every point matters. It’s going to be pretty fun.”
For the seniors on the team, hosting this meet is a dream that is long in the making.
“We’ve known it was going to be here at A&M since our freshman year when we first walked in and it’s just kind of that final chapter,” senior and captain on the men’s team Jonathan Tybur said.
The Aggies last hosted this meet five years ago, which was their second year in the SEC. A&M head diving coach Jay Lerew said having home pool advantage in this meet is vital.
“My first year here, we hosted SECs for the first time,” Lerew said. “That was when we first got into the SEC, so that was cool. It’s nice to be at home, home field advantage makes a lot of sense with our diving board. [The divers are] used to our diving boards. They don’t have to go to somewhere else and find different spots, different flexes of boards.”
Both teams have found success in dual meets throughout the year. The men downed longtime rival Texas in the fall, a feat no Aggie swim team had been able to accomplish since 1962.
Galat said credit for the success of the team is due to not only the swimmers, but also to those working on the sideline and behind the scenes.
“Looking at the leaders of the team, the coaching staff, the athletic trainers, the nutrition, weight training and also leaders of the team, everyone brings their own leadership,” Galat said. “That creates an atmosphere where everyone is motivated, everyone’s focused and everyone’s competitive. It just gives me the chills thinking about it because it’s so true. It creates an incredible environment, both on the guys team and the girls team.”
Along with the advantage of competing in their own pool, the swimmers are also looking forward to the presence of the crowd.
“I swim breaststroke so you come up every stroke and you really can hear the crowd,” Galat said. “It’s not as much as other sports, but absolutely the crowd does make a difference.”

Tybur said part of the excitement for this meet comes from the transformation of the pool for meets.

“It’s just really amazing to get to see that come alive and seeing the pool get set up,” Tybur said. “They have the new landlines that they’re just putting in. Eventually they’ll put up all the decorations, all the banners and so with that you’re leading up to all of the hype so that’s cool to see.”

Senior Mauro Castillo’s said since this meet is being held at home, it is a little more personal. 

“My parents never came to an SEC meet before and this is going to be the first meet that they are able to come and watch me swim,” Castillo said. “I’m very excited and it’s also my last meet at this pool as a student athlete and as a Texas A&M swimmer, so I’m very excited to see how fast I can go.”

Senior diver Tyler Henschel’s year hasn’t gone quite the way he planned, but he said he is looking forward to finding success at the SEC Championships.

“Last year, my biggest meets for the school were the important ones — the SEC championships, Zones to qualify for NCAAs and the NCAAs itself,” Henschel said. “This year it’s kind of on the same track. The dual meets last year didn’t go all that great, and the dual meets this year didn’t go all that great, which I kind of like because I go, ‘Okay, I didn’t do good here, that means I’m going to do better on the competitions.’ I like those bigger competitions, I like the pressure and I like to go into them and just give it all I have.”

Men’s head coach Jay Holmes said he trusts his team will remain unfazed by the pressure competing at this level could bring.

“These guys have all been to big meets before,” Holmes said. “They’ve all been to junior nationals where there’s thousands of competitors or U.S. Open where there’s a thousand people there.”

Bultman said he expects his team to use this meet to qualify and prepare for the upcoming NCAA Championships.

“Obviously we’ve got some very good swimmers and having them be able to swim fast when they need to be able to swim fast in the important meets is the key,” Bultman said. “This meet is important. We want to do well as a team but we also want to get more girls qualified for NCAAs. We feel like we already have 11 or 12 girls qualified for NCAAs and so we’ll have another nine or 10 and this will be their meet to try and get qualified for NCAAs.” 

The meet kicks off on Wednesday with time trials at 10 a.m. and will finish on Sunday.

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