The Bluejays are coached by Goshen, Ind., native Nate Duell, who moved to Hills?boro last December and brings nearly 20 years of coaching experience to the position.
Seventeen swimmers are on Tabor?s inaugural roster, seven men and 10 women.
?We had about half a year of recruiting, so I?m pretty happy with that,? Duell said. ?We?re kind of setting a goal to double that number for next year, and there certainly has been a ton of interest, being the only men?s and women?s program in Kansas.
?It?s a big deal. Kansas swimmers have had to go out of state if they want to swim in college, so it?s an option.?
Duell said he sought swimmers with a love for the sport, a coachable spirit and a high level of commitment.
?When you can say, ?My whole team is made up of kids with those characteristics,? boy, you?re almost guaranteeing a good experience, and you?re going to have success in what you?re doing,? he said.
?Almost to a person, that?s something all of these swimmers bring to the table. They really love the sport, and they are glad to have the opportunity to do it beyond high school.?
Each swimmer has different events in which they specialize, and Duell said he has a ?pretty decent variety.? He will look to recruiting the next couple of years to fill any current voids.
?Freestyle events, there are the most of those, so a lot of people will do freestyle,? he said. ?Backstroke, butterfly and breaststroke events and the individual medley events, those are what we kind of call the ?off-strokes,? and we have plenty of people specializing in that.?
Duell?s first swimming recruit to sign with Tabor was Sarah Schulte, a freshman out of Salina Central specializing in the backstroke.
?She represents all those good qualities I was talking about,? Duell said. ?She?s just a great person to be around. She?s always got a good attitude. It was a good start for us.?
Freshmen twins, Kelly Smith and Angela Smith out of Wichita North were Duell?s final two to sign. Kelly swims the freestyle, while Angela specializes in the individual medley and breaststroke. They bring year-round experience and a good work ethic to the team, Duell said.
?You would think they were robots the way they work,? he said. ?They just get after it all the time, and you can?t coach that.?
Sophomore Whitney Livesay, who specializes in the butterfly, brings NAIA collegiate swimming experience to the team, having transferred from Asbury University in Kentucky.
?That kind of leadership and experience is a blessing for us to get,? Duell said. ?She was a national qualifier last year at Asbury.?
For the men, freshman Tanner Sechrist of Hillsboro brings year-round swimming experience.
?Only four of our swimmers were year-round swimmers, so to have that kind of experience and that kind of leadership from a freshman is really, really good,? Duell said.
?Tanner is a jack of all trades. He can kind of do a little bit of everything. We?ll see him more in the (individual medley) events. Really, it?s kind of up in the air because he can literally do everything.?
Duell said the team has displayed good chemistry, a necessary ingredient for a sport like swimming.
?While swimming is essentially an individual performance sport, you don?t do well without a good team because the training is not always exciting,? he said. ?You need that good chemistry with the team to sort of encourage one another, and these guys really do a great job of that.?
One of Duell?s goals for the season is building a strong foundation.
?Most of what we are trying to do is just establish a good healthy program that people are going to want to be around and want to join. If we can do that, that?ll be the biggest success,? he said.
?Do we have competitive goals? Sure we do. We want to get to nationals, we want to score points at nationals. But if that doesn?t happen, and we end the year with a good healthy swim team that people are wanting to be around, then we?ve done our job.?
The Tabor women have already gained experience swimming against the likes of the University of Kansas and the University of Illinois.
?Not very many programs our size can say to recruits, ?Yeah, we swam at a meet that was on ESPN3. It was against a Big 12 school and a Big 10 school,?? Duell said. ?Did we get beat pretty badly? Yes, we did, but the experience was exceptional.?
All five of the women?s relays have already qualified for the NAIA meet, while the men have qualified three.
?We try to learn something from every meet and every race and every experience,? Duell said. ?That?s an important thing when you?re a new program and you have so many people who are new to college swimming.
?If you travel in a different country, you?ve got to learn all the rules and you have to learn how to exist in that country, and that?s kind of where we are, strangers in this foreign land of college swimming.?
Duell commended Tabor for adding a swimming program when many schools across the country are dropping theirs.
?Hopefully, we can reward them with furthering the reputation and bringing more kids into the Tabor family,? he said.
Duell also spoke well of the support from the college and from Marion for allowing the team to use Sports and Aquatics Center for practices.
?We?ve been very blessed and very fortunate to have the right people in our corner supporting us,? he said. ?Lee Leiker (USD 408 superintendent) at Marion has been really great about making this pool available and working with us. Obviously, Rusty (Allen) is a forward-thinking athletic director. It?s been encouraging for me to have that kind of support.
?I?m looking forward to seeing what we can do, and how we can grow. It?s an exciting time.?