By Steve Joos
“What a fantastic trip.”
That’s how the Mount Vernon swim coaches described the team’s recent training and college visitation trip.
Twenty-three swimmers and six chaperones traveled to southern states and toured 11 college campuses during their week-long trip which stretched from Mount Vernon through Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee.
Coach Larry Zoller called the tour “flawless and beneficial.”
The Wet Cats were joined by members of the Southeastern Swim Club from Fishers, as a total of 86 swimmers traveled 2,386 miles to work out and find out about the educational and athletic opportunities available at each stop.
The trip started in Bowling Green, Ky., at Western Kentucky University, the home of 2012 Olympian (100-butterfly) Claire Donohue. At WKU, the group had a two-hour practice in the Hilltoppers’ home pool at the Russell Sims Aquatic Complex and met with coach Bruce Marchionda before taking a walking tour of the campus.
From there, it was off to Alabama and Birmingham Southern College, one of the nation’s top-ranked liberal arts colleges and the destination of Mount Vernon academic All-American Emily Harris.
The group was met by Gen. Charles Krulak (a former Marine Corps commandant and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) and former University of Evansville swim coach Toby Wilcox. Now the head coach at Birmingham Southern, Wilcox and members of the school’s admissions department took the group on a walking tour of the campus.
The second day started with a two-hour workout in the new Birmingham Complex 50-meter pool, a few blocks from the BSC campus. After that, it was off to Tuscaloosa and University of Alabama, where the group toured the admissions department, but was unable to meet with new Crimson Tide swim coach Dennis Pursley, who had yet to move to the area.
A trip to Auburn was next, with an official admissions tour followed by a walking tour of the campus and downtown Auburn conducted by SSC chaperone and Auburn alumnus Carl McMillan.
The third day started with a workout in Darton College’s 10-lane pool and a meeting with coaches Will Breehl and Molly Gilbert, who discussed the program at the Albany, Georgia, school.
The swimmers then traveled to Florida State University for an admissions department tour before splitting into groups, with boys going to the University of Florida at Gainesville and the girls heading off to North Florida in Jacksonville, which only has a girls’ team.
At Florida, the boys met 2012 USA Olympic swim coach Greg Troy and assistant Steve Jungbluth, who conducted a tour of the campus and the Steven O’Connell Athletic Complex, which contains a basketball complex and a group of 50-meter pools.
Jungbluth conducted the tour while Troy was giving a workout to Ryan Locke and 19 other Gator swim club members who were training for the trip to London.
Mandy Crowe, a school record holder in the breaststroke at Mount Vernon, swam for the Gators from 1996-2000, registering the third fastest women’s breaststroke time in school history.
The group practiced in an Olympic pool on the sixth day of the trip, along with some whitewater rafting on Oconee River’s 1996 Olympic kayak course in Ducktown, Tenn.
That followed a tour of the Georgia Tech University campus in Atlanta and a meeting with Yellowjackets coach Marty Hamburger about the school’s athletic and academic opportunities.
The group also worked out at North Florida University, Emory University and the College of the South in Swansee, Tenn. At Emory, the swimmers met with coach John Howell about academics and athletics, while SSC graduates of Emory and the College of the South conducted campus tours.
The group also met with Florida State High School swim coach Rob Ramirez after their “dress-up” dinner in Jacksonville. Ramirez swam for coach Zoller in 1975 and as it turned out, was a high school classmate of one of the chaperones.
By Steve Joos
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