By Chris Megginson ’05
When members of the University’s inaugural swim team took their mark and dove into the water at the Sewanee Invitational in Tennessee in October 2019, it marked the realization of a dream conceived half a century ago.
Fifty years after the first reported discussions of adding competitive swimming at Montevallo, the UM Board of Trustees approved men’s and women’s swimming and diving as UM’s 20th and 21st intercollegiate sports teams in February 2018, establishing Alabama’s first NCAA Division II swimming program. Aaron Mahaney, formerly associate head coach at the State University of New York at Buffalo, was hired that summer as UM’s first head coach and tasked with building a team and overseeing the transformation of a 25-yard community pool into a competition-ready swimming facility.
“When I got here I just called it my beautiful tub of water. They had the framework set up; the lines were already in the bottom,” Mahaney said.
Starting blocks were added to the Robert C. McChesney Student Activity Center Natatorium and were designed to fit the anchors installed when the building was constructed in 2003-2004. Aluminum bleachers now line the pool deck outside the natatorium offices next to the pool ramp. Purple and gold lane flags hang above the six-lane pool divided by purple and gold lane lines. A clock and scoreboard are fixed on the wall across from the bleachers.
“The Physical Plant and everybody here, from the tile guys, electricians, painters, IS&T and more, have done their part in helping us get the beautiful tub of water turned into a pool,” Mahaney said, specifically thanking UM President Dr. John W. Stewart III and Athletics Director Mark Richard for their support. “When they say ‘it takes a village’ it really does.”
UM received its first commitment from a future Falcon in December 2018 and announced a 31-member recruiting class in May, resulting in 16 women and 15 men from eight states on the 2019-2020 roster. Twenty-nine of those are freshmen.
The 2019-2020 schedule began in October 2019 and includes seven combined meets and one additional women’s meet, culminating with the New South Intercollegiate Swim Conference Championship in February.
Mahaney said he and assistant coach Hannah Wakeley will help swimmers break down their goal times, set pace to meet goal times, work with an athlete to individualize their training and push them to the next level by having other individuals train with them. With every competition, team members are inscribing their names into the Montevallo history books.
The focus from the beginning was to create a “family-first atmosphere with a focus on academics and then swimming,” Mahaney said. That support system, combined with good sleep and nutrition, are what he hopes will help his student-athletes remain relaxed and focused.
“My motto is swimming smarter, not harder,” he said.
Montevallo’s 2019-2020 swimmers come from eight states: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
Women’s team members are Kyaliyah Berry, Lexie Cardwell, Amanda Farmer, Molly Hansen, Hannah Johnson, Paige Kent, Ashleigh Ketch, Gemma Knauf, Mary Lane, Katie Mailcoat, Carlee Muncher, Anisa Nelson, Grace Sturgill, Hailey Vance, Amanda Ware and Shayla Whaley.
Men’s team members are Parker Bell, Brandon Bell, Andrew Bryant, Anthony Carey, Connor Daigle, Spencer Hoyt, Will Mahone, Trent Mobley, Gabe Moon-Puente, Thom Naccarato, Jered Poland, Samuel Rix, Joshua Sauer and Kyle Smithers.