It was an eventful and impactful summer for the Alabama swimming program.
The Crimson Side sent dozens of swimmers to Olympic Trials and there were numerous current and former Alabama swimmers representing multiple countries at the Tokyo Olympics.
“Had a great summer as well,” said first year head coach Margo Geer. “We had some of our best performances at the US Olympic trials and put Rhyan White on the U.S. team. We were also able to put two other current team members on their their national teams where they represented out in Tokyo.”
(Diana Petkova represented Bulgaria, and Kalia Antoniou represented Cyprus.)
All three athletes, plus the more than 50 other swimmers on the Alabama roster are now training for the collegiate season which opens with the Crimson Tide hosting Delta State on Friday at 2:30 p.m.
Those athletes are also training for World Championships in 2022, and the Paris Olympic Games that are now just three years away. And that’s exactly how the Alabama coaching staff wants it to be.
“Our ultimate goal is for you to fulfill your dreams, whatever that is,” said associate head coach Ozzie Quevedo.
He served as the interim head coach last season and coached the position group that White competed in. Quevedo, himself an Olympian swimmer for Venezuela in 2000, coached White from afar while she was in Tokyo where she earned a silver medal as part of a relay group and secured two individual fourth place finishes in the 100m and 200m backstroke.
Quevedo worked as White’s primary coach the last few years, and while her making the United States Olympic team may have caught some people by surprise, he always knew she had the potential.
According to Quevedo, she first started garnering attention at a meet in California in April. Things really we started to pick up after that.
“Then we had another meet the following month in Atlanta, and that’s when she went from virtually being unknown into being world ranked,” Quevedo said.
After her performance in Tokyo, White was recently named a member of the 2021-22 USA National team. Quevedo could not say enough good things about White and her work ethic, but he wants her to be one of many Alabama swimmers to have this type of success. And he sees the potential among the current roster and the recruits coming in the future.
“Our objective is certainly to have more people making the U.S. national team, making the US Olympic team and having second swims at the Olympics,” Quevedo said. “So I think we have an opportunity now with Rhyan kind of setting the path and opening that sort of direction.”
Alabama sent 14 swimmers to the second wave of U.S. Olympic Trials back in June and had multiple athletes get second swims including Kensey McMahon, Tyler Sesvold and then White who ultimately made the team.
Because of Alabama’s success at both the trials and the Olympic games, Quevedo said the Crimson Tide has been making a lot of noise on the recruiting trail, and he welcomes any sort of target it may put on their back.
“We’re getting a lot of interest from domestic and international recruits, on both ends, men and women, because they’ve seen how we’re able to provide the performance in the midst of all kinds of crazy situations happening,” Quevedo said.
The crazy situations he cited were the COVID pandemic, and the coaching transition Alabama has gone through over the last two years. Coley Stickels resigned as head coach in December of 2020. Geer joined the program full time in January to begin working with the team while Quevedo served as the interim. Geer officially took over after the 2021 season ended.
At 29 years old, Geer is by far the youngest head coach on the Alabama campus with most of the others doubling her in age. While she said she believes the program has been strong across the board for years, she wants to establish the way she will lead the program and create her own culture.
Part of that culture is training athletes to be successful at things like the SEC and NCAA championship meets but also international swimming events like World Championships and the Olympics.
“When we’re recruiting athletes, that’s something we tell them up front,” Geer said. “We not only want them to succeed here within the college system and within what we’re doing as the University of Alabama and our program, but we want them to go compete for at the highest level for their countries.
And so whether that’s within the U.S. or that’s wherever they’re from, we want their goals to be at the highest level so that’s going to be at World Championships, at the Olympics and things like that.”
The international events take a temporary pause as it is time for the college season to start. Last season, the women’s team finished fourth at SECs and fifth overall at NCAAs while the men finished fifth at SECs and 15th at NCAAs.
Both Geer and Quevedo want to see Alabama consistently compete for championships and the journey begins for the 2021-22 team with the dual meet against Delta State on Friday.
“I’m excited for where our program can go this season,” Geer said in a press release. “We are coming off a terrific year with a lot of success on the national and international scene and we’re looking to carry that even further. We have a strong schedule that gives us a lot of opportunities to compete and grow through the season.
This team has a great mix of veterans and newcomers and we’re looking for every individual to be the best they can be this season – one day at a time.”