North Texas Daily

Youth, improved times excites swimming and diving for upcoming season

Youth, improved times excites swimming and diving for upcoming season

April 07
02:34 2016

Torie Mosley | Staff Writer

@toriemosley

After finishing last season fifth in Conference USA, North Texas swimming and diving went 7-4 in dual meets this year and finished fourth at the conference championships in February.

The Mean Green had seven seniors graduate this spring and have 19 underclassmen returning. Head coach Brendon Bray said the depth and experience the team will retain next season excites him about the potential to compete at a higher level.

“This team’s so different because last year and the year before, we’ve had completely different personnel, and that is our new core of swimmers now,” he said. “To know that they’re this good in the beginning stages of their career is what’s exciting.”

The team had a losing streak near the beginning of the season, but picked up speed heading into conference play.

“We’ve had some ups and downs,” Bray said. “There’s a couple of events where a B finalist could’ve been an A finalist, but I think this is the first year that we’ve had a core group of people that all [were] in the mix to score. I’m happy with what we did, but we can be a lot better.”

Sophomore Sarah Vaisse was honored as Conference USA Co-Swimmer of the Week in January and ranks second in school history in both the 100 breaststroke and the 200 IM. Additionally, sophomore Claudia Kitching placed second in the 200 breaststroke and third in the 100 breaststroke at the C-USA Championships.

However, one of the Mean Green’s top performers joined the team halfway through the year, just when things were starting to heat up.

Freshman Rebekah Bradley won first place in the 200 backstroke at the C-USA Championships, becoming the first North Texas swimmer or diver to win first place at the meet in school history. The New Zealand native was named C-USA swimmer of the week twice in a row in February, becoming the second Mean Green swimmer to win multiple weekly awards in school history.

Bradley also holds the fastest time in school history in the 100-yard backstroke, the second fastest time in the 200-yard backstroke and third fastest time in the 50-yard freestyle.

North Texas swimmers junior Emily Rush (left) and freshman Rebekah Bradley (right) pose for a photo after practicing at the Pohl Recreation Center. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Junior Emily Rush, left, and freshman Rebekah Bradley pose for a photo after practicing at the Pohl Recreation Center. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

“She’s just started to scratch the surface on what she can do,” Bray said. “She has goals like a lot of them do to be at the NCAA Championships, and she’s within sight of that. I think she’ll be a lot better and will continue to improve.”

The freshman has only been with the Mean Green since January. She finished high school in New Zealand in December, but has adapted to life in Texas quickly.

“Here, everything’s bigger. It’s Texas after all,” Bradley said. “New Zealand’s just a lot smaller, and the competition’s smaller.”

Bradley said she misses her friends and family back home more than anything and doesn’t get to see them every day like she used to.

“It sucks sometimes, but I’m glad I’m here competing at UNT and getting better every day,” she said. “Everyone’s been nice and helping. I couldn’t have asked for better people.”

Bradley became roommates with her sophomore teammates Lauren Tidwell and Deneen Carter shortly after arriving to Denton. This is the freshman’s first semester in college and her first experience competing against collegiate competition.

Bradley has quickly sketched her name in the North Texas record books, but said she isn’t too worried about how many medals or awards she gets.

“It’s really nice to have the statistics and medals and stuff, but it’s really the times that I care about and qualifying for competitions,” Bradley said. “All of that’s really unique, but I really care about my times and the people I meet throughout my time here.”

Junior Emily Rush will return as one the teams few seniors next season and said she’s excited to see what the young North Texas squad can do next year.

“It’s exciting to watch them because they have so much more time to get better,” Rush said. “I’m the old one now, so it’s kind of intimidating sometimes.”

With so much to look forward to next season, the Mean Green has one common goal.

“Our goal is to be represented in NCAAs,” Bray said. “We need to move up in the conference, challenge at the conference championship, challenge to have people leading in events, but it’s also important to have people represented at the highest level. We need to continue to improve. That’s always priority number one.”

Featured Image: The home of the North Texas swim team is the back of the Pohl Recreation Center. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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