Alabama swimming and diving to compete at NCAA ChampionshipsBy James Fletcher | 03/07/2018 7:49pm
The Alabama swimming and diving team is preparing for its trip to the NCAA National Championships, with the men set to compete in Minneapolis, Minnesota on March 23 and the women heading to Columbus, Ohio on March 14.
After a strong season the Crimson Tide will look to finish the season strong by competing against the nation’s top swimmers.
Senior Braxton Young is set to make his first NCAA Championships appearance after capitalizing on his first SEC Championship meet by helping the men’s 200 freestyle relay bring home the gold.
“He’s been a real fun story. He started out as a walk-on his freshman year and I still remember thinking to myself ‘real nice kid, but I don’t think he’s going to make it,'” said head coach Dennis Pursley. "But he’s really blossomed at the end of his career, and now he’ll get a chance to compete on the biggest stage in college athletics for a national championship.”
Young’s breakout performance took many by surprise, as he quickly rose through the ranks in his final year, narrowly qualifying for the SEC Championship.
“To compete at Auburn, to qualify for SEC’s and to become an SEC champion all within three weeks is rare and it’s made his season a great success,” said sophomore Zane Waddell.
But Young is not satisfied yet, he is looking forward to the chance to compete for a national title and is confident in his relay’s abilities.
“We have a chance to finish top eight, we could even win the thing, we could really do that," Young said.
Young and Waddell are joined on the 200 freestyle relay by juniors Laurent Bams and Robert Howard.
At the women’s championship in Columbus, Ohio, freshman Flora Molnar will make her first NCAA Championship appearance, but she is no stranger to the big stage, competing previously in the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2017 FINA World Championships for Hungary – her home country.
“You cannot really express what it was, it was the best three weeks of my life, but all the other international meets have helped me to not get frustrated and to stay loose,” said Molnar. “I think it’s just my personality, I want to dance.”
In high school, Molnar took dance classes to help with her rhythm in the butterfly, which carries over into her outgoing and spontaneous personality.
“She’s just fun to be around and the team responds to that, and I hear she’s a pretty good dancer too,” said Pursley.
Molnar is more than a dancer, she is one of Alabama’s brightest young stars, already holding the second-fastest 50 freestyle in school history, just behind teammate Bailey Scott and just ahead of Lindsay Morrow and Temarie Tomley, all of whom are members of the women’s 200 freestyle relay that will compete for a national title.
Morrow echoed the sentiment of the team when she said, “The best is yet to come with her.”
The Alabama women will compete March 14-17 at McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion in Columbus, Ohio and the men will compete March 21-24 at University Aquatic Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.