BRIDGEWATER, Va. – After posting their strongest performance in the brief history of the program at last year's Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Championships, the Bridgewater Eagles swim team will look to continue their forward progression through the league when the 2013 ODAC Championships open on Friday at the Greensboro Aquatic Center.
Last season, the Eagles accumulated their highest championship points total in program history with 329, but came up just shy of cracking the top three in the league standings after upending Sweet Briar earlier in the season in a dual meet.
Bridgewater again topped Sweet Briar this season in dual meet action, but will look to put together another strong performance starting on Friday morning. The Eagles also have stiff competition from Emory & Henry, which has a small roster but a talented group that could score points at every position.
"To finally crack the top three, it's going to take our top kids being at top of their game. Behind that, our depth has to score points for us as well. We have a lot of kids in the top 20, but a few of those will need to move into the top 16 to score for us," said head coach Fran Smith. "Emory & Henry is our biggest competition at the moment; they are in the top 8 in everything. We are going to have to work hard to crack the top three."
In the sprint events, the Eagles have a number of strong competitors in each event. Junior Carrie Crowther enters the weekend with the top individual seed time in the 50 yard freestyle with a time of 25.70 seconds to rank eighth in the league. Sophomore Annalee Gallagher is right behind Crowther in ninth with a time of 25.76 seconds, while sophomore Shannon Myers sits in 11th with a time of 25.95 seconds.
The Eagles also own two of the top 10 times in the league in the 100 yard freestyle. Crowther again leads the way with a time of 55.98 seconds, which is good enough for seventh-best in the conference. Gallagher sits in 10th place entering the meet with a time of 56.72 seconds.
Finally in the 200 yard freestyle, the Eagles have three times in the top 20, led by Crowther's time of 2:02.25 which places her in seventh. Senior Danielle Dillon sits in 19th at 2:08.17, while Gallagher is close behind in 20th with a time of 2:09.01.
"We're a bit dinged up at the moment, but we have some quality swimmers in the sprints. Carrie (Crowther) is swimming really well and needs to be in the top eight, and we'll need Jennifer Lutz and Jessica Thomas to score for us as well. Shannon Myers will also need to make some moves for us by cracking the top five in a few events," commented Smith.
In the 500 yard freestyle, Bridgewater has just one top 20 time. Dillon sits in 15th with a time of 5:41.39 in the event. Dillon is also Bridgewater's lone performer in the top 20 of the 1,000 yard freestyle with a time of 11:54.26.
Junior Michelle Caron leads the way for the Eagles in the 1,650 yard freestyle and is just outside of the top 10 in 11th place entering the weekend. Caron's time of 20:09.48 paces five Bridgewater performers in the top 16 in the event. The Eagles own the 13-16 spots in the event.
"Our distance swimmers have the potential to be solid, we have a few in the top 16 in our events and we will need them to produce points this weekend," said Smith.
Myers is Bridgewater's top participant in the backstroke with her 1:05.05 in the 100 yard event putting her in 11th in the league. Freshman Macey Smith also cracks the top 20 in the event with a time of 1:06.75 to sit in 18th place.
Smith and Myers switch roles at the 200 yard distance. The freshman is in 16th in the event with a time of 2:23.80 while Myers sits in 20th place at 2:27.16.
Three competitors sit in the top 20 in the 100 yard breaststroke, with senior Jeni Zeiler pacing the way with the league's ninth-best time. Zeiler's 1:13.49 places her just inside of the top 10, while freshman Emily Townsend sits in 14th with a time of 1:14.06. Finally, junior Jennifer Lutz resides in 18th in the event with a time of 1:15.49.
Townsend is Bridgewater's top performer when the distance moves to 200 yards. The freshman sits in 10th place in the rankings with a time of 2:41.34, while Zeiler is 19th with a 2:46.98.
Myers, Townsend and Gallagher each sit inside the top 20 in the 100 yard butterfly. Myers enters the weekend in 12th with a time of 1:03.88, while Townsend is close behind in 14th place with a time of 1:04.29. Gallagher resides in 20th with a time of 1:06.16.
Freshman Allie Stewart is Bridgewater's lone top 20 performer in the 200 yard individual medley. Stewart sits in 16th place with a time of 2:24.52.
Townsend and Zeiler both crack the top 20 in the 400 yard IM. The freshman leads the way with a time of 5:10.58, good enough for 14th, while Zeiler is in 16th at 5:13.81.
"Shannon continues to be our stroke expert. She's in the top eight right now in a number of events and she's a great competitor. Allie Stewart has been solid and could easily be in the top eight, but with freshmen, you don't know how they will react to a three-day meet," said Smith.
Bridgewater cracks the top four in each of the five relays on the docket for the weekend. In the 200 yard freestyle relay, the quartet of Gallagher, Myers, Lutz and Crowther sit in third with a time of 1:42.27.
In the 400 yard freestyle, the Eagles are in fourth place entering the weekend with a season-best time of 3:48.80.
Bridgewater resides in third in the 800 yard freestyle with a time of 8:40.78, while sitting in fourth place in both the 200 and 400 yard medley relays.
"Our 200 freestyle always seems to be our best relay, we have a goal of taking top two in one of our relays. We know that we should be top four in every relay, but need to get a few top threes as well to pick up some key points," said Smith.
Action from Greensboro starts on Friday morning with a session of preliminary races before shifting to finals in the evening. The championship will conclude on Sunday afternoon as a new conference champion is crowned.