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Young talent leads the way as Clemson club swim makes a splash at nationals

Clemson Club Swim
Clemson club swim’s nine qualifiers at nationals in Indianapolis.

At the beginning of the month, the Clemson club swim team traveled to Indianapolis to compete in the 2024 College Club Swimming National Championship. The event took place from April 5-7, hosted at the Indiana University Natatorium with 131 teams in attendance.

The Tigers had nine swimmers compete at nationals, finishing 42nd as a team and breaking eight club records.

“Our placement of 42nd is really good, considering we only had nine swimmers. The top scoring teams were made up of 40-50 swimmers each,” the club’s president, Ben Simpkins, told The Tiger in an email.

Clemson club swim has faced its fair share of adversity, with its inaugural season beginning after the elimination of the Division I team following the 2011-2012 school year. Since its inception in 2013, the club has experienced fluctuations in membership numbers, specifically due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the end of the pandemic, the team has been “steadily growing,” according to Simpkins. The classes of 2026 and 2027 have returned to normal numbers, with the class of 2027 being the largest thus far. This large freshman class made its presence known in Indianapolis, as five of Clemson’s nine swimmers competing at nationals were first-year students.

Freshman Jessica Laws placed 8th in both the 500-yard freestyle and the 1000-yard freestyle, breaking club records in both events. Her time of 5:22.87 in the 500-yard broke the 2016 record time of 5:24.89, and her time of 11:08.85 in the 1000-yard freestyle surpassed the 11:41.17 record from 2015 by more than 30 seconds.

Freshman Noah Gabriele had an equally impressive weekend in the men’s bracket of the pool, breaking records in two individual events as well. Placing 7th in the 50-yard butterfly, his time of 22.47 snapped the 2018 record of 22.53. Continuing to dominate as a sprinter for the Tigers, Gabriele’s time of 21.04 in the 50-yard freestyle earned him a 16th-place finish and another broken record from 2018, trumping the former best-time of 21.35.

Freshmen Jack McLaury, Danny Zlatev and Chase Healy also found success in their personal performances, with Zlatev and Healy contributing to the team’s record-breaking relays as well.

McLaury competed in the 50-yard backstroke, improving from his seed time of 27.17 to 26.96. Zlatev earned a time of 28.63 in the 50-yard breaststroke.

Healy achieved a personal best in each of his three individual events: the 50-yard freestyle (21.92), the 100-yard backstroke (53.26) and the 50-yard backstroke (24.65). Sophomore Nathan Claborn improved his times in both the 100-yard backstroke (56.82) and the 50-yard backstroke (25.68).

Aside from the standout performances by the team’s freshmen, the upperclassmen aided in the team’s success as well, leading the Tigers to four new relay records.

The men’s 4×50 medley relay consisting of Healy, Zlatev, Gabriele and junior Ryan Dix broke the 2018 club record (1:36.12) by six-hundredths of a second with a time of 1:36.06.

The men’s 4×50 freestyle relay, headed by Simpkins, Gabriele, Healy and Dix dominated the 2017 club record (1:26.82) with a time of 1:25.13. The same squad made history in the 4×100 freestyle relay with a finish of 3:11.09, diving over the 2017 record of 3:11.64.

The final relay of the meet, the mixed 4×50 freestyle, saw Gabriele, Laws, Healy and sophomore Katie Cross earn a time of 1:34.99, knocking off last season’s record of 1:37.13.

Simpkins said the team had the same number of swimmers compete at nationals last year, but they did not score any points and finished in last place. This year’s 39 points gave them a 42nd-place finish out of 131 teams, placing them in the top-third percentile of participants.

After a successful season that culminated with impressive performances on the biggest stage in club swimming, Simpkins says he’s feeling very optimistic about next year’s season and what the incoming freshmen will contribute to a team already packed with so much young talent.

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Teagan Sullivan, Senior Reporter
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    Barbara LawsApr 26, 2024 at 2:45 pm

    How can I save the photo of the swim team?