Tabor swimmers preparing for national stage

The Tabor College swim team gathers at the pool for a group photo. Back row (from left): Evan Bell, Tristan Ward, Quinlee Niblock (manager), Caysi Sykes (graduate assistant), Danny Smith, Ian Duell, Nicholas Bradley, Jacob Rudolph, Coach Nathan Duell, Sarah Schulte, Aleya Hill. Second row (standing): Blake Smith, Muriel Gibson, Jaden McGee, Haylee Herman, Annika Hightron. Front row (sitting): Michal Parris, Kianna Hinerman, Angela Smith, Kelly Smith, Marianna Nassuna Alves.In his fourth season with the Tabor College swimming program that he initiated, coach Nathan Duell is pleased with the progress his women’s and men’s teams have made midway into the competition season.

Combined, Duell has nine athletes on his roster who have already qualified for nationals in relays or individual events, or have competed at nationals in past seasons.

“At this point we have four women’s relays that have qualified this year already, and a couple of individuals,” Duell said. “It’s been a good start to the season, but we’re definitely looking for more.

“At the beginning of December we have our big end-of-the-first-semester meet at Hendricks College in Arkansas,” he added. “That’s the one where they’ll put their fancy suits on, they’ll shave, they’ll be a little rested—so we’re looking for some good results there.”

WOMEN’S TEAM—After competing Nov. 20 at the Kearney Quadrangular in Nebraska, the team has posted a 6-1 record against other schools.

Duell has 12 women are on the roster, with Aleya Hill, a junior from Oregon, and Sarah Schulte, a senior from Salina, serving as captains. Schulte was the first swimmer Duell signed.

“Unfortunately, she’s had to hang up the goggles because she’s had some concussion issues, believe it or not,” he said.

Following are the national qualifiers on the team since their time at Tabor:

• Aleya Hill, a junior from Oregon, has been a national qualifier the previous two seasons, and holds school records as a member of the 200-yard medley relay and the 200, 400 and 800 relays.

• Kelly Smith, a senior from Wichita, is a three-year national qualifier. In fact, she has qualified in three individual events and five relays each of three years she’s been at Tabor.

“She will finish with 20 relay swims and 12 individual swims at nationals,” Duell said.

• Angela Smith, who happens to be twins with Kelly, did not swim at nationals last year, but she did her freshman and sophomore years.

Duell said Angela was diagnosed with lymphoma in May 2016 and spent that summer in treatment.

“She missed only one week of practice,” Duell said. “She got back in and hasn’t missed anything since then.”

• Marianna Nasssuno Alves, a sophomore from Brazil, came in spring 2016 and swam in three events at nationals.

“She’s already picked up some cuts this year,” Duell said. “She’s a very solid swimmer and competitor that works like an animal.”

• Michal Parris, a sophomore from Murrieta, Calif., returns as a national qualifier in distance. She swam the mile at nationals last year, which is 66 lengths of the pool.

“It takes a different kind of mentality to do that,” Duell said. “Anybody can kind of get in and go as fast as they can, down and back, but you really have to put a lot of work in to swim distance.”

Duell has five freshmen on the roster.

“They will contribute in different ways,” he said. “We’ll wait and see. I know what I kind of expect out of them. We’ll see how they adjust to the college schedule and training regime. It makes a big difference (from high school).”

MEN’S TEAM—“We have five guys, so we’re a little low on guys, but we’re recruiting hard to fill out that team a little bit,” Duell said. “The guys work hard and they realize we’re small, but we’ve got to get it done.”

To date, the men’s team is 1-4 in head-to-head competition, but as individuals, the Bluejays have had solid competition success.

Evan Bell, a junior from Oregon, is captain of the team and has been a national qualifier his first two years.

“I anticipate he will be again this year,” Duell said. “He’s one of those leaders who will yell if he needs to, but it’s more, ‘I’m just going to work and you need to keep up with me.’ So it’s really by example.”

Bell holds Tabor records in the 200 and 1,000 free, 200 and 400 medley relays, 200, 400 and 800 free relays.

Nick Bradley, a sophomore from California, and Jacob Rudolph, a sophomore from Washington, are both returning as national qualifiers in the relays.

Bradley is a school record holder in the 200 and 400 medley relays, plus the 800 free relay. He also has the record time in the 200 breaststroke.

“Evan is the only one on the team right now who has qualified as an individual at nationals,” Duell said.

Season outlook

Swimming is classified as a winter sport, but the Bluejays’ competitive schedule began Sept. 22 and the national championships are scheduled for March 1-3.

Their competition locations this season include Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kan­sas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and most of all Colum­bus, Ga., for nationals.

“Ultimately, (nationals) is what we’re looking at,” Duell said. “The men have been in the top 20 the past two years. The women scored for the first time last year, and I think they ended up 21st.

“So, we’re headed in the right direction,” he added. “Certainly, we’re going to measure our growth that way, but there are a whole lot of other ways to do that.

“Obviously, just numbers on the roster is one way to measure that.”

Tabor’s next competition will be Dec. 1-2 at the Hend­rix Invitational at Conway, Ark.

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