Lexington, Ky. – When the Transylvania swimming and diving teams hit the water for the first time this weekend at the Kentucky School Invite in nearby Louisville, the Pioneers will do so with an army of athletes presiding over the pool both in size and stature unforeseen for nearly the entire decade.
Boasting a roster doubled in size from the past two seasons, Transylvania swimming and diving head coach Dave Doolin believes he has a program ready to contend across all realms entering the 2019-2020 season.
Now in his third year at the helm, Doolin has elevated a program the past two years into one that has been competitive, yet limited in what it was able to fully accomplish in every single meet due to a condensed roster size.
That all changed this offseason as Doolin has returned an expanded roster on both the women's and men's teams, along with the return of a diving team to Transy led by three new incoming divers.
With all hands on deck for 2019 and beyond, the nearly 40-person Pioneer roster is ready to pick up from where they left off last season while now possessing the ability to hoard those critical dual meet points that have been left on the table in the past. The Pioneers are a team that returns many of their championship building-blocks from last season and now embraces the new opportunity to lay down another foundational addition to a roster that brushed its limits last season.
"I think we improved as a team in how we practiced," states Doolin of last year's progress. "Everyone was trying to get better each day working on things that they needed to improve on. I think when we went into this year, we recruited athletes who could fill in holes that we had for our meet formats, and now with the number of kids we have, we'll be able to contend in all facets of our meets."
Not only is the quantity an attribute which will be quickly noticed at swim meets this season, but also the versatility that emanates from Transylvania's top performers.
The Pioneers return a collection of veterans to their core, including Mattie Fogle (Lexington, Ky. / Lexington Catholic HS) and Sarah Haerle (Newburgh, Ind. / Castle HS), who guided the Pioneers to individual glory at last year's Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championships in Terre Haute, Indiana last February. Fogle, a senior, won her first women's 1650 freestyle championship while her fellow senior counterpart Haerle repeated as the champion in the women's 200 breaststroke.
The Transylvania men's swimming and diving team also enters the 2019-2020 season as a revitalized bunch, led by junior Drew Dodds (Madisonville, Ky. / Madisonville-North Hopkins HS), who set a new program record in the men's 200 breaststroke at the HCAC Championships. Sophomore Reece Arredondo returns for his second tour of duty after making significant strides as a distance swimmer in 2018-19. Sophomore Devon Parker (Pewee Valley, Ky. / Saint Xavier HS) is another returnee for the men's side who excelled in sprint events for Transy last season.
Doolin points to his cast of veterans as both producers in the pool and leaders from a cultural standpoint: "They all want to try to get better and the great thing about them is their leadership," continues Doolin. "They all lead by example and get in the pool and work hard every day. The first-year student-athletes see all this and understand how things are done here, and then follow their lead."
Newcomers Sophie Ritzenthaler (Berwyn, Pa. / Conestoga HS) and Sami Monarch (Shelbyville, Ky. / Martha Layne Collins HS) are two freshmen who figure to make a splash for the Pioneers this season. Ritzenthaler's versatility is illustrated by her excellence in freestyle and backstroke racing at the high school level along with her experience in sprint and distance racing.
Freshmen Connor Hood (Lexington, Ky. / Lafayette HS) and Kigen Chemirmir (Nairobi, Kenya / West Nairobi School) are two new additions to the men's team who have the potential to lift the Pioneers to the next level. A school record-setter at Lafayette High School in the boy's 200 freestyle, 100 backstroke, and 200 IM, Hood is one newcomer who can aid the Pioneers in a plethora of races. Chemirmir's gifts as a sprint specialist positions the youngster as another swimmer who threatens to unlock new dimensions for the Pioneers.
"We're excited to see what these new first-year swimmers can do both in sprint events and in relay events too," observes Doolin. "Each format for each meet can differ so having the ability to swim multiple races will allow us to contend."
Another point of enthusiasm for Doolin approaching the season is rooted in the enhancement of practices, buoyed by the increase in daily participants. "I think the influx of numbers totally changes practice," espouses Doolin. "We try to go a couple of days a week where everybody is in the pool, and those are manipulated to fit each group, and we also run practices specific to which events our athletes swim, and it fosters a competitive environment."
The evolution of the Pioneers will also witness the return of the first diving team in four seasons, further accelerating Transylvania's ability to field an all-around championship contender. Diving Coach Noah Richter joins the program for 2019-20, offering his own perspective as a former standout diver at crosstown University of Kentucky while helping rebuild the diving component at Transy. "Coach Richter has been integral to helping us build a championship program here," adds Doolin. "He's a Division I athlete who knows what it takes to get the right people in here and his expertise helps us with everything from recruiting to fully integrating the diving team within our program and building the kind of culture that we want to have."
The blueprint for excellence leads on the annual road to the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Swimming and Diving Championship held in mid-February. Coming off a pair of fifth-place finishes last season, the Pioneers now look to put together a roadmap that inches them closer towards contending for a conference championship.
Transylvania tests its progress early on Saturday, October 5 at the Kentucky School Invite in Louisville before returning to the pool for three more weeks of training. The Pioneers begin their season in earnest at Asbury University on October 26 before clashing against Wittenberg and Wilmington at their annual tri-meet on the first weekend of November. A string of four dual meets precedes the annual two-day Transylvania Invitational, an extravaganza that brings most teams from the HCAC along with a slew of regional opponents to the University of Kentucky's Lancaster Aquatic Center on December 7-8.
The Transylvania Invitational serves as the midpoint of the season for the Pioneers before the team breaks for the holidays. The Pioneers will then converge in South Florida for a week of training that sets the tone for the home stretch of the season leading up to the HCAC Championships.
"The midseason meet is one of our most important points," analyzes Doolin. "During the Transylvania Invitational, we can look at events that certain people may or may not swim in during the conference meet depending on how it goes, but most importantly it gives us information that we use for our training trip in Miami in January. The New Year's training trip allows us all to be together, get refocused, and it's a great opportunity that allows us to bond and build our culture. In my first year here, we really grew tighter as a team with that trip and we're looking forward to it again."
As the Pioneers prepare for a promising 2019-20 season, Doolin has his team remained intent on achieving steady progress which has come to define this program throughout his three-year reign: "We want to be able to compete in all of our meets and make some noise at the conference meet and that's the key – we want to be competitive in our conference and eventually win conference. We're going in the right direction and everyone's goal is to get to that point."
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