Swimmers take break before stretch run

Dave Ongie • Updated Dec 7, 2016 at 8:11 PM

The month of December brings with it an awkward midseason pause for Milligan’s swim team.

After an Autumn of eye-opening times from emerging new stars, the squad will scatter to the four winds over Christmas break only to return for the make-or-break conclusion to coach Kelly Essler‘s first season at the helm. January will bring with it a pair of dual meets, which will be followed closely by the conference meet and a trip to the NAIA Nationals for those on the roster who meet the lofty qualifying times.

In order to ensure that her swimmers are ready, Essler will send them home with instructions to get in the pool with their respective club teams and get some work in. Shortly after the New Year, the Buffs will come back to campus before the rest of the student body to finish preparing for the stretch run.

“I can’t write them practices, but they have to be practicing four of seven days a week when they go home on their own," Essler said. "Then they come back for winter training, and we’re right in the middle of the season.”

As she reflected on the fall meets, Essler was particularly pleased with freshman swimmer Sarah Farmer, who closed out the fall portion of the schedule with a bang on Nov. 19 by breaking three school records. Farmer now holds Milligan’s top marks in the 50 free, 100 free and the 100 backstroke.

On the men’s side, Grant Callahan and Sterling Burnett have been among the standouts thus far, and Essler believes some school records could fall on the men’s side as well before it’s all said and done.

While daily improvement of this year’s team has been at the forefront, the winter break will allow Essler to put the wraps on her first round of recruiting and move into the second phase. Essler is hoping to nearly double the size of the team by next year, and to do that, she’ll need to sign 13 swimmers. At the midway point, Milligan has seven signees, which makes that goal attainable heading into the second semester.

So far, Essler has been able to sign a male swimmer that will be able to fill a void in the middle distance freestyle events as well as a couple female swimmers who will specialize in the breaststroke.

“It’s a busy time,” Essler said. “Second semester, it’s really going to have to bump up. We’ll be probably recruiting through the summer, getting the last-minute decisions.”

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Talk about your quick turnarounds.

Just two weeks after leading the Milligan cross country program to the NAIA National Championships, Hannah Segrave, Mitch Bronstetter and Taylor Tafelsky were among the Buffs competing in their first indoor track meet of the season in North Carolina last Saturday.

Segrave hit the ground running with a win in the women’s 3,000-meter event, shattering a school record in the process. Her time of 9:51.73 broke the old mark of 10:10.55. Meanwhile, Tafelsky and Bronstetter finished 1-2 in the men’s 3,000. Tafelsky won with a time of 8:44.09 while Bronstetter’s 8:58.78 was good enough to make the freshman a runner-up in his first career indoor event.

“This was a quality early season meet, so for Hannah and Taylor to come away with two commanding wins is a good feeling,’ said Milligan track coach Chris Layne.

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Thursday’s doubleheader will mark the final homestand of the calendar year for the Milligan men’s and women’s basketball squads.

The women will open things up with a game against Appalachian Athletic Conference foe Bluefield inside Steve Lacy Fieldhouse at 5:30 p.m. with the men’s game against Bluefield to follow. Following Thursday’s games, the Buffs will be on the road for nearly a month before coming home to play an AAC doubleheader against Point University on Jan. 7.

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