BARBOURVILLE, Ky. – The Union College men’s swimming program had a successful season last year, but the Bulldogs are looking to build on their 11th-place finish at the NAIA National Championship Meet.
Head coach Rafael Forti will turn to a relatively young squad with only one senior and a pair of juniors on the eight-man roster. However, he returns two national qualifiers, sophomore Karl Smith (Lexington, Ky.) and senior Adam Woodard (Hopkinsville, Ky.)
Smith and Woodward were a part of the 200 freestyle relay team that finished tenth with a time of 1 minute and 32.77 seconds and turned in an 11th-place finish in the 200 medley relay after a time of 1:45.79. The duo helped to set the school record in both events along with records the 400 freestyle and 800 freestyle relays.
Smith will also compete in butterfly events while Woodward will be in freestyle events as individuals.
Fellow sophomore Alan Thomas Saylor (Lexington, Ky.) will provide additional leadership, added Forti. Saylor is the lone returnee in breaststroke events. He owns the school record in the 200 breaststroke at 2:33.31. He also joined Woodward on the 400 medley relay team for the school record of 4:11.08.
A pair of juniors, Corbin Melton (Barbourville, Ky.) and Bradley Hobbs (Flat Lick, Ky.) will compete in the backstroke. Melton posted a time of 2 minutes and 33.45 seconds to set the Union record in the 200 backstroke and he was part of the 400 medley and 800 freestyle relay school record-breaking teams.
Forti is anticipating newcomers Jeremiah Back (Flatgap, Ky.), Colin McEachran (Blenheim, Canada) and Michael Viscardi (Marietta, Ga.) to make a push to earn a trip to nationals. Back will be in the butterfly events while McEachran and Viscardi are freestyle and breaststroke swimmers, respectively.
Expectations from Forti are high as he foresees a number of Bulldogs to join Smith and Woodward at this year’s national championship meet.
“Everyone has a chance to qualify for nationals,” he said. “Everyone on the team is in great shape and the preseason training has gone well.”
The season begins October 20 at the University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) and Eastern Kentucky University will also compete in the meet. The Bulldogs will swim in four home meets, with the first on November 10 against Milligan (Tenn.) College and Eastern Kentucky. Union will compete in seven meets and two invitational before the NAIA Swimming and Diving National Championship set for February 27 to March 1 in San Antonio, Texas.