There Will Be Old And New In Tide Swimming

Last year the Alabama men’s swimming and diving team was selected as the national “Breakthrough Team of the Year.” When the Crimson Tide opens its 2014-15 season Friday hosting Delta State in the Alabama Aquatic Center, the expectations are much higher than they were a year ago.

Alabama will host Delta State at 4 p.m. Friday. There is no admission charge.

The Crimson Tide is coming off its best season since the early 1990s. The men turned in a fourth place at the SEC Championships and a 12th place finish at the NCAA Championships, setting new school records in 12 events, including all five relays. The women’s team also moved up in both the conference and national standings, while setting new school marks in nine events.

Alabama Coach Dennis Pursley has some proven stars back from last year, but the Tide is also counting on a strong freshman class.

Seniors Kaylin Burchell and Kristel Vourna lead the Tide women. Burchell was a 2014 All-America in the 100 breaststroke after taking seventh at the NCAA Championships. Vourna, a 2012 All-America, holds the school record in the 50 freestyle and the 100 butterfly.

On the men’s side, Anton McKee and Kristian Gkolomeev had All-America performances last year as freshmen. Gkolomeev won the 50 freestyle at the NCAA Championships in a time of 18.95, becoming the first Crimson Tide swimmer under 19 seconds. Coming off an SEC Championship in the 200 breaststroke and an outstanding summer of competition, McKee will be sidelined to start the season after breaking his collarbone late in the summer.

“Both Anton and Kristian have a lot of potential to get better and that is exciting considering they were among the best in the country as freshmen,” Pursley said. “Anton, unfortunately, is currently out of the water right now. He is rehabbing and progressing well, but it will be a while before he gets back in the pool.”

The Tide also returns All-Americas Brett Walsh and Connor Oslin.

In addition to its veterans, nearly a dozen newcomers will make their Crimson Tide debuts on Friday.

“It’s the first opportunity to see our freshmen in competition,” Pursley said of Friday’s meet. “It’s also an opportunity to swim our veteran swimmers in some events that they may not have competed in last year, but might want to enter them in some of the meets this year.”

“The freshmen have gelled very well with the program,” Pursley said. “They are all responding in a way that we would like to see them respond.”

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