Pioneers prepare for new season and new conference

Pioneers prepare for new season and new conference
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The 2012-2013 Transylvania swimming and diving team are poised to join the Ohio Athletic Conference and are hoping to make a major splash in their first season within the league. 

Head coach Kyle Dunaway, in his third year with the program, is excited for the chance his team has to swim against competitive schools in the area.

“This conference gives us a chance to align ourselves with a league of solely NCAA Division III schools,” said Dunaway, who refers to the team’s previous alignment with the Bluegrass Mountain Conference, which was made up of NAIA, NCAA Division II, and III institutions. “These (OAC) schools have programs very similar to ours and it promises to be a league we can be competitive in.”

The Ohio Athletic Conference is comprised of 11 Ohio-based schools, five of which offer swimming and diving.  They are Baldwin-Wallace, John Carroll, Mount Union, Ohio Northern and Wilmington. Transylvania is joined by fellow HCAC affiliate Defiance College as the sixth and seventh member in the conference competing in swimming and diving.

“In my first two years, we have seen both Wilmington and Baldwin-Wallace in meets during the regular season,” said Dunaway of the new conference. “We’re also looking forward to the new schools we will face as well.  Traditionally, Ohio Northern University and John Carroll University have led the way in the OAC, but we are excited about our chance to go in and show the conference that we are a force to be reckoned with.”

For the women’s team, Pioneers that will lead the charge this season are seniors Amanda Skinner and Lindsey Anderson.  Skinner finished last season with the 24th fastest 400 individual medley time in the country, and was also able to snatch several school and personal records along the way. 

Anderson studied abroad last season over the winter term, therefore missing the second half of the season.  Before she left, however, she was able to swim lifetime bests in all of her individual events.

“We’re going to rely on these two seniors to not only be performance leaders this season, but team leaders as well,” Dunaway said.  “Both of them have the potential to set records.  Lindsey was able to set a lot of achievements in the short time we had her last year, so the fact that she is coming in stronger this year and for a full season will really bode well for her senior campaign.”

Juniors Chelsea Diamond and Carly Hubbard also return as veterans, and will help the squad in several categories.  Both return as current school record holders in all five of the relay events.

For the men, E.J. Quijano, Brian Daffin, and Allen King all return to the lineup for Dunaway after the program graduated seven seniors last year.

“Entering this new conference will be a huge benefit for our guys this season,” said Dunaway. “All will have tremendous opportunity to reach the finals in their respective individual events, and if they work hard, could come out on top.”

The Pioneers add eleven to the roster this season, with four new divers and seven swimmers.

Freshman divers Hannah Jelinek, Hailey Baden, Carson Baughman and Jared Brewington will all be under the direction of diving coach Tom Gimm in his second year at Transy.  Gimm is in his seventh year of coaching overall, has previous coaching experience at the Kentucky Diving Club, Spindeltop Hall and the University of Kentucky.

“Our group of divers will serve as big contributors for us in all facets of our season,” said Dunaway of the newcomers. “We are certainly seeing the growth and development of our diving program under Coach Gimm, and are excited to see the impact our divers will make in both dual meets and our championship season.”

Joining the swimming efforts will be key freshmen Sam Mullen, Anna Balassa and Sydney Shurn.  All three come from strong swimming backgrounds and have the grassroots to be beneficial to this young squad.

Mullen was a member of the state championship winning 4x100 freestyle relay team for Covington Catholic High School, and will be a swimmer to watch this season for the Pioneers. 

“All of our first year athletes have a chance to be big contributors for us this season,” Dunaway said. “We really look forward to the things that we can achieve this season with their help.”

With the joining of a new conference and a host of fresh faces this could be the breakout season the Pioneers have been working for.

“We have big expectations this year as we have a very strong nucleus of talent,” said Dunaway of his squad. “Our goal is to break into the Ohio Athletic Conference and come away with multiple individual and potentially relay conference championships.  We don’t have the pressure anymore of going into a championship meet knowing we will be overmatched in depth and talent, and will instead go into our championship season with something to fight for.”

Transy will complete their season this year swimming in the Ohio Athletic Conference Championships in Akron, Ohio.

Dunaway and the Pioneers will kick off their season Saturday as they host Oberlin College in the Campus Center Pool.