The Sweet Briar College swim team is gearing up to get its season underway as the Vixens will hit the pool this weekend at the Converse College Women's Invitational.
For the third season, head coach Donna Hodgert will be leading the Vixens from the pool deck. Coach Hodgert's dedicated squad of eight swimmers may be small, but they've been training hard and will be ready to surprise their competition all season long.
Hodgert in encouraged by seeing the dedication and hard work in her swimmers that she saw amongst her teammates during her time swimming for Sweet Briar. A member of the class of 1989, Hodgert was an All-American swimmer for the Vixens and still holds three individual school records and one relay mark.
"I remember how hard my team worked each day when I was swimming for Sweet Briar and I have witnessed the same work ethic the past two seasons and now with this new squad I see the same desire to give it their all each day," said Hodgert. "Our team has three values we hold dearly: dedication, support, and adaptability. Sweet Briar swimmers are one hundred percent dedicated to working hard in the pool and in the classroom, they support each other in their goals in and out of the pool, and they are willing to make changes to fill the needs we have on the team in certain events."
Leading the way for the returning Vixens will be senior Mary Stuart McDevitt, who last year set a new school record in the 100-yard breaststroke at the ODAC Championships. The Yulee, Fla. native ended up finishing second in the 100-breast B Final. Along with that gusty performance, McDevitt was also a member of three six-place relay teams at the championships.
Juniors Claire Zak and Paige Chamblin, along with sophomore Caroline Thomas, will be returning to the pool for Sweet Briar and providing a veteran voice for the first-years. As a sophomore, Zak swam on the Vixen's 200-free relay team at the ODAC Championships.
Taylor Allen, a top-100 recruit in the state of Virginia, will look to lead the group of four first-years. Allen did her prep swimming for St. Catherine's School in Richmond and the well-known Poseidon Swimming Club. Coach Hodgert has said she's looking for Allen's outgoing personality, work ethic, and leadership to serve as a solid foundation for the team this year and the entire swim program moving forward.
With a smaller team, preseason can be a grind, but Hodgert has been encouraged by how vocal and supportive her captains have been throughout the conditioning.
"When I hear their voices, I know we are going to have a great day," Hodgert said. "Swimmers have a 'misery loves company' approach and knowing everyone in the pool is going through the same stress mentally and physically is what makes a team bond, but each individual cannot focus on the misery, instead they must focus on the accomplishment of making a challenging interval. The team captains are doing a great job celebrating and draw attention to these types of successes in practice."
The Vixens will now focus on translating all of that practice and conditioning into results in the pool. With a full schedule between this weekend and the ODAC Championships the second weekend of February, the Vixens will be hosting four competitions in the Prothro Natatorium this winter. The first will be on November 4 when Bridgewater College comes to campus for a dual. The next day, Sweet Briar will host conference rival Hollins University and fellow women's college Cedar Crest College.