PREVIEW: Southern Athletic Association

The exciting news in the SAA over the summer was that Millsaps is adding swimming, but that’s not coming until 2019-20, so, for one more year, the SAA remains a six-team league. Birmingham-Southern swept the league titles a year ago and should repeat once again this year, but the races behind the Panthers are going to be mighty tight once again.

Here are our projected standings with previews:

SAA WOMEN:

  1. Birmingham-Southern – BSC’s reign at the top of the SAA won’t stop this year, as the Panthers both return more and brought in more than any other team in the league. At the top, three-time First Team All-American and reigning SAA Swimmer of the Year Becca Erwin (60 pts., 4 A-Relays, 100/500/1BR champ) returns, as do Kasey Godwin (46, 2A, 1 B-Relay), Kayla Canon (44, 1A/1B), Chelsea Chamblee (38, 4A), and Jenna Luth (38, 1B). The Panthers also have a very strong recruiting class, led by Rachael Brooks (1:59.49/5:09.8/17:31, 58.0/2:03.8 BA, 2:16/4:51 IM), Anna Jordan Luth (55.44/1:59.8 FR, 1:06.2/2:22.5 BR, 1:02.1 FL, 2:08.8/4:36 IM), and Mary Katherine Stewart (25.0/53.9/1:54.7/5:10.4, 58.1/2:04.4 BA, 1:09.4 BR, 1:00.8 FL, 2:10/4:38 IM). Annalane Lee (25.09/54.9/1:58.7/5:18, 1:01.6/2:10.4 BA, 2:19.6 IM), Jordyn Miller (5:18.9 FR, 2:13.8 BA, 59.85/2:13 FL, 2:15.6/4:42 IM), and Katherine Pepe (25.46, 2:19.5 BA, 1:08.5/2:32 BR, 1:00.4/2:18.2 FL, 2:17.6/4:53 IM) all add great depth, too, which will offset the loss of four losses – graduates Katie Kassis (35, 1A/2B) and Sarah Catherine Murphy (26, 1B) and underclassmen Savannah Barber (48, 4A) and Rachel Sullivan 26, 1A/3B).
  2. Rhodes – Rhodes should remain comfortably in second once again this year, and the returns of NCAA-qualifiers Allie Hill (57, 2A/2B, 1BA/2BA champ) and Madi Griffin (56, 4A, 50/200 champ) will help to assure that. NCAA-Qualifier Virginia Carr (51, 4A, 2BR champ) is a big loss, as is that of Emily Wozena (40, 1A/3B), but Grace Tolan (43, 1B) and Carly Good (41, 1A/3B, 4IM champ) are also back as 40-point scorers. Lilli Metts (25.01/53.75/1:56.1/5:05, 59.7/2:08 BA, 1:00.3/2:18.8 FL, 2:16/4:37 IM) is the best of a solid recruiting class, and Julia Cronk (2:02.6/5:28 FR, 1:10.5 BR, 59.9/2:14.6 FL, 2:11.4/4:46.7 IM), Erin Osborne (55.2/1:57.5/5:11.8/18:21, 1:02.2/2:12.1 BA, 1:02.8 FL, 2:12.3/4:51.7 IM), and Brittany Pierce (25.3/54.5/1:59.1, 1:01.7/2:13.5 BA, 2:16.0 IM) all could score significant points at SAAs.
  3. Centre – Centre returns its top four scorers and much of their relay power in Annie Holmes (50, 4A, 1FL champ), Amelia Blankenbeker (49, 2A/2B, 2FL champ), Chloe Grove (46, 3A), and Sarah Phillips (44, 4A), but the losses of SAA Diver of the Year and six-time All-American (40) and Cameron Beach (42, 4A) are significant. While Centre’s recruiting class lacks top-end firepower, it’s one of the deepest in the league, as Emma Adkins (24.43/54.3/1:59.2/5:22, 1:04.2/2:23.7 FL), Connor Foster (19:10.9, 1:01/2:13.7 BA, 1:01.2/2:23.4 FL, 2:20.9/4:56 IM), Maddie Hall (18:57, 1:08.5/2:27.4 BR, 1:03.3/2:19.4 FL, 2:21.3/4:53 IM), Savannah Kingery (25.33/56.3/1:57.9/5:16, 1:03.7/2:18.6 BA), and Peyton Patel (24.93/55.04, 1:02.3/2:15.8 BA, 1:11.7 BR) all can score significant points.
  4. Berry – Berry lost more points from the 2018 SAA Championships than any team in the league, highlighted by the graduation of Haley Brown (51, 4A) among the nine losses from their scoring roster. However, the Vikings do return four of their top five scorers in Josie Hadaway (54, 4A, 2IM champ), SAA Newcomer of the Year Brooke Boyd (52, 4A, 1650 champ), Sarah Pierce (34, 3A/1B), and Sydney Ragsdale (33, 1A/1B). Lilyanna Jenkins (1:09.1/2:27.5 BR, 1:02.1 FL, 2:13.6/4:46 IM) and Emma O’Heron (1:59.8/5:14.6/17:55, 1:03.4/2:09.8 BA) are the best of the Vikings’ seven newcomers, while Andie Hadaway (19:14, 1:02.4/2:20.2 FL, 2:19.9/4:59.5 IM) and Cambell Liska (56.05/2:00.5/5:17.4/19:05, 2:14.5/4:52 IM) should help, too.
  5. Sewanee – Sewanee doesn’t return much in terms of swimming points, as they lost their top two scorers in Megan Mulhern (37, 3A) and Olivia Baker (33, 4A) along with six other scorers, but the Tigers do return the league’s two best returning divers in Paisley Simmons (33) and Noel Whitlock (33). Sewanee does bring in two of the top freshmen in the league in Gabby Acker (25.21, 59.74/2:08.11 BA, 1:03.99/2:22.69 BR, 1:04 FL, 2:13.3 IM) and Kate Mabry (24.47/54.47/1:59.3, 57.58/2:08.13 BA), both of whom could immediately win conference titles.
  6. Hendrix – Hendrix should narrow the gap to Sewanee this year, but depth will still keep the Warriors at the bottom for now. Haley Whitson (21, 1A/2B) and Journey Eubank (17, 2A/1B) are back and provide senior leadership, but no other swimmer reached double-figures in individual scoring at SAAs in 2018. There are two very strong freshmen among the team’s eight newcomers, as Trinity Dohoney (55.77/2:00.3/5:19, 1:00.3/2:14.4, 59.09 FL) and Alexis Ozden (24.7/55.3 FR, 59.4 BA, 1:07.3/2:27.4 BR, 2:08.6/4:37 IM) should both be able to score major points and likely will be the team’s top two scorers.

SAA MEN:

  1. Birmingham-Southern – Despite losing more than any team in the league, BSC’s lock on the top spot is by no means in jeopardy in 18-19. Yes, the Panthers lost relay Honorable Mention All-American (800FR) Wil Barton (48, 1A/3B), Caleb Riggs (48, 2A/1B), Luke Huffstutler (47.5, 2A/2B), and Brady Coleman (45, 2B) to graduation, but BSC returns SAA Swimmer of the Year and two-time HM All-American (800FR, 500) Nico Medina (60, 1A/2B, 200/500/1650 champ), SAA Newcomer of the Year and HM All-American (800FR) Patrick Dunne (57, 4A, 4IM/2BA champ), and Noah Young (57, 4A, 2IM/1BA champ). The Panthers also return five other 40-point scorers, including HMAA (800FR) Ryan Emili (47, 4A). Freshman diver James Hughes should be the best in the league, and RJ Clark also should be one of the league’s better divers, while Hayden Henderson (57.85 BA, 58.39/2:09.4 BR, 52.1 FL, 1:57.7 IM), Chase Mays (49.4/1:46.3/4:56/17:25, 53.75/1:58.6 FL, 2:03.9/4:17 IM), and Joshua Wong (1:02.8 BA, 58.56/2:13.85 BR, 2:02.6/4:41 IM) lead the incoming swimmers.
  2. Centre – Centre faces major losses from 17-18, as five of their top eight scorers are not on this year’s roster, including Noah Martin (57, 4A, 50/1FL champ), Bradley Baker (45, 1A/3B), Mitchell Collins (44, 4A), and SAA Diver of the Year Brad Nordin (40). Arthur Ensign-George (44, 3A/1B), Jimmy Kelley (43, 3A/1B), and Grey Pendery (33, 2B) are the team’s top returners, and the Colonels’ recruiting class should be strong enough to keep them narrowly ahead of Rhodes in second. Garrison Herfel (20.95/46.39/1:42.08, 54.48 BA, 51.84 FL, 2:06.7 IM) is arguably the league’s top freshman, and Sean Gilpatrick (56.77/2:01.3 BA, 1:01.6/2:12.2 BR, 54.3/2:03.5 FL, 1:58.3/4:23.1 IM), Zee Oddo (21.71/48.29, 58.44/2:11.84 BA, 1:01.14/2:18.2 BR), and Max Shoyat (1:47.8/5:00.3 FR, 52.81/1:55.5 BA, 54.48/2:06.41 FL, 1:55.9/4:12.8 IM) all should score big points.
  3. Rhodes – Rhodes returns five of its top six scorers, led by Hayden Hill (54, 4A, 2FL champ), one of the league’s top freshmen a year ago, and Christian Stankovic (41, 4A). Lucas Bradford (31, 2A/2B) and Tanner Martinez (29, 3B) are also back, and the Lynx have a strong core of four among their 12-man freshman class in Roland Chang (1:45.6/4:44/16:45, 1:02.5/2:16.1 BR, 2:04.4 FL, 2:00/4:17 IM), Zac Gammons (21.34/47.93/1:49.7, 52.4/1:59.9 BA, 53.57 FL), Richard Gentry (55.63/2:05.4 BA, 58.94/2:12.5 BR, 2:01.6 IM), and Evan Ziolkowski (21.83/46.91/1:42.8/4:45, 56.9 BA, 53.4 FL, 2:04.8 IM). The Lynx should give Centre a better challenge for second than they did a year ago, and should create a few more points of distance from Berry in fourth.
  4. Berry – Berry returns its top three scorers in sophomores Dylan White (47, 4A) and Michael Bemis (42, 4A, 100 champ) and junior Jackson Parker (29, 3A/1B), and newcomers Bo Dyar (21.93/47.79/1:45.3, 51.67/1:53.1 BA, 1:57.65/4:42 IM) and Bryant transfer Cyrus Nabavi (22.08/48.8/1:48.1, 51.51/1:53.4 BA, 51.0/1:54.4 FL, 1:57.7/4:11 IM) should both make major impacts to the team. The Vikings also add one diver in Sage Costen.
  5. Sewanee – Lee Haber (47, 4A, 2BR champ) and Carl Failing (45, 4A) are both back after impressive freshman seasons, and diver Jed Henrichsen (33) and James Hoyt (30, 2A/2B) also return, but there’s not much beyond that, as the remaining five returners combined for just 20 points last year at SAAs. Anthony Carbone (21.64/47.22/1:45.54, 1:00.2 BA, 58.6/2:06.6 BR, 2:06.8 FL, 1:57.4/4:21.9 IM) is a big pickup for the Tigers and could challenge Haber for the 200 Breast title, while Thomas Young (1:46.9/4:52/17:12, 59.5/2:01.7 BA, 54.0/1:58.7 FL, 4:22.8 IM) should also score big points.
  6. Hendrix – The good news is that Hendrix returns junior Sam Melhorn (48, 4A, 1BR champ), the only swimmer to score more than 20 points a year ago. Therein also lies the bad news, as the rest of the returning Warriors combined to score just 52 points at the 2018 SAA meet. Lyle Alford (16, 5A), Max Parker (14, 1A/2B), and David Jiang (10, 1A/3B) are the other top returners, and the addition of Paxton Higgerson (22.5/47.9/1:49.2, 1:00.3 BA, 1:02.6/2:14.9 BR, 52.98/2:01.2 FL, 1:57.6/4:12.5 IM) is a big one. Higgerson could immediately be the Warriors’ number-two scorer behind Melhorn.

Projected Award Winners:

  • Women’s Swimmer of the Year: Becca Erwin, Birmingham-Southern
  • Women’s Diver of the Year: Paisley Simmons, Sewanee
  • Women’s Newcomer of the Year: Anna Jordan Luth, Birmingham-Southern
  • Men’s Swimmer of the Year: Nico Medina, Birmingham-Southern
  • Men’s Diver of the Year: James Hughes, Birmingham-Southern
  • Men’s Newcomer of the Year: Garrison Herfel, Centre

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s