First-year WVU Tech swim coach Will Hughes has his visions of where he wants to take the program.
“We want to be able to compete at a national level,” Hughes said.
“They were conference champions in 2017 — we want to make that more consistent.
“We want to be conference champion this year and next year, every other year. We want to constantly be in competition for that conference championship.”
It might take a while to get there, simply because the Golden Bears lack roster depth.
But Hughes seems to have everything in place.
The men go into their last two meets of the season — Saturday at Union and next Friday at Fairmont State — with only 11 swimmers. It’s even more dire on the women’s side, which is fighting through with just four swimmers.
“Not much you can do with four girls,” Hughes said.
“It’s similar to wrestling and track.”
“Points-wise, there’s not a whole lot we can do. They have beaten some teams that had six and eight girls on their team. That definitely shows how strong they are as four swimmers.”
The goal from now through the Appalachian Athletic Conference tournament on Feb. 13 is to qualify as many swimmers as possible for the national meet March 4 in Knoxville, Tenn. Swimmers can make national cut times at any meet prior to nationals.
The focus now in on exactly that.
“The cuts (the women) made for nationals were in the relay events, so what we’re trying to do is strengthen the relay events by strengthening their individual events,” Hughes said.
“So I have two freshman swimmers that are very close to making a B cut in individual events, each one of them in two events.”
Those two are Brenna Emery and Andrea Segovia. They are joined by seniors Ana Loureiro and Petra Vasale.
“She’s not far away,” Hughes said of Emery. “She’s going to try to go after the 200 IM so we’re going to focus on that here in this whole portion of the season getting ready for conference.
“(Vasale is) quite a distance away, but she’s a strong swimmer. If it wasn’t for her making her cuts, we wouldn’t have made the national cuts in the relays.”
On the men’s side, seniors Paulo Ignacio Jr., Manuel Gomez and Felipe Ruiz have all qualified to compete individually at nationals.
“We’ve got a good, strong squad, and I think the guys that are there are putting forth a really good effort,” Hughes said. “They’re training hard. We’ve got great leadership from the seniors. Everybody’s trying to elevate to their level to see the success of the program.”
Marcos Damaso is a junior academically but is in his last year of athletic eligibility. He will be a student assistant for Hughes next season.
Sophomore Pau Eslava qualified in the 400 intermediate.
“All the other freshmen are strong swimmers,” Hughes said. “They are very capable of placing and earning points for the team.”
The current lack of numbers is a challenge, but Hughes has plans to overcome that.
“We want to have a lot better training regimens, access to better training,” Hughes said. “We currently share the (YMCA of Southern West Virginia) and that presents its problems. We get three lanes. This year three lanes is not a problem. But if we grow the team to 30 — 15 girls, 15 guys — which is what I am recruiting strong for now, three lanes is going to be a problem. We’re going to have to have some sort of facility where the kids can train and get in the pool as much as they need to.
“On the alternative side, we’re looking at getting an endless pool. So I’m trying to get some donors together and maybe if we can buy an endless pool and find a place to put it, then that will be great. That will be something that will be ours and we can get in it any time we want.”
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