The Auburn women won their first national title in 2002 and followed it with championships in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007. Ranked fifth in the country coming into the event, the Tigers won the SEC Championship in February and have the second most qualifiers in the field behind Arizona's 18.
"I've been here three years and from the moment I stepped in here I've felt like there was a bull's-eye on my back, and I'm sure everybody else's," Tierney-Walker jokes. "Right now this team is just so ready to get this competition started. I think that's confidence that they've put quite a bit of training into the year. It's just an incredibly resilient team.
"If we perform personal best times, which is our goal, we're going to be in the running for a championship whether we win it or not."
Tierney-Walker has been a part of the last two national championships and David Marsh was a part of all of them. However, Richard Quick, who was Marsh's coach when he was a collegiate swimmer at Auburn, is in his first year after returning to Auburn.
Quick says that it's been an easy transition this season with the character of his athletes as he hopes to regain the lead over Marsh in the three-day event in Columbus.
"One of the things that I think Auburn has done so well over the years–and I've followed this program very closely even though in some cases I was coaching against Auburn when I was at other schools–is that if an athlete can give themselves up for a team effort," Quick explains. "I think when you give yourself up for the team effort then extraordinary things can happen individually that lead to the kind of result we like to have as a team."
Senior swimmer Emily Kukors adds that it's been easier than expected transition from a player's perspective as well.
"The seniors this year have had a completely different coaching staff since my first day here as a freshman," Kukors says. "Every year we've adapted to a new coach. It was definitely hard losing David after 17 years, but with Richard's experience at Auburn prior to David, putting swimmers on Olympic teams and stuff like that, we knew he wasn't a rookie. He knows what the Auburn family is like and he knows what the Auburn traditions are like, which I think we all hold dear to our hearts. For him to come in it was an easier transition than I anticipated and he's really just adapted to the way we've been doing thing and adding his mix to it as well. It's been a really nice transition."
Tierney-Walker adds, "With Richard Quick on board this year it's been a great experience. It's been a great challenge as always and I think we're excited to come here healthy and well prepared with Richard Quick in charge.
"One thing that Richard has done this year is maintain many of the traditions, coaching balance and training schedule that has made Auburn so successful while adding his own technical expertise," she continues. "Certainly his attention to detail is absolutely phenomenal. His leadership has just been invaluable."
Preliminaries are held at 10 a.m. CDT on Thursday, Friday and Saturday while the finals for the events will be held starting at 6 p.m. during the three-day event.