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BOGACZYK: Swimming Depth, Talent Infusion Buoys Tramel

Bill Tramel

June 3, 2014

By JACK BOGACZYK

HERDZONE.COM COLUMNIST

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall swimming and diving Coach Bill Tramel has met one team goal for the 2014-15 season.

With his team’s other goals, there are many, many more yards of pools to go this coming autumn and winter.

Back in December, Tramel – headed toward his third Thundering Herd season in ’14-15 -- said he needed to land 12 recruits for the upcoming year.

Well, with the recent MU addition of Radford sophomore transfer Laura Bradley – the Highlanders have dropped swimming as an intercollegiate sport – the Herd has the dozen newcomers the coach wanted, and they hail from six states, Canada and Germany.

With a returning roster of 14, the addition of 11 swimmers and one diver puts the Herd program at a roster number Tramel likes.

He said there’s “an excitement now heading into the fall,” with improved depth and talent. He’s counting on five seniors who have thrived in the program to point the newcomers in the right direction via leadership and commitment.

Now, the Herd has to figure out how to make strides in Conference USA.

“I think overall, with 12 coming in, the numbers are good for our depth,” Tramel said Monday. “We  finished with only 12 or 13 healthy bodies last year, and we brought in 12. If everyone stays healthy, then we’re doubling the size of the team so if we do run into sickness or injury we’ll have a little more depth to compensate.

“There were times this past season where we had people finishing a race, climbing out and climbing right in again, right back up on blocks for the very next race. (Rising senior) Kaley Gregory did that a lot, doubling in the 1,000 and 200 free, which are back-to-back races. That’s not very conducive to success.”


 

 

Tramel said he’s counting on the true freshmen to contribute mightily.

“It’s also the caliber of the women we signed as well,” the Herd coach said. “Of the 14 individual events contested in swimming, 10 of those events will be led by a freshman next year. Ten of the 14 we have a freshman No. 1 on our depth chart to start next year (according to their personal best times). In five of those events, the top two are incoming freshmen. We certainly need more of that depth if we want to compete at the conference meet, so we’re certainly looking forward to the fall.”

To display how far the Herd needs to go, it had 35 of 43 career bests last season and 33 performances in the career top 10s at Marshall, plus four school records. The Herd still finished ninth and last in the C-USA Championships, a distant 86.5 points behind eighth-place Old Dominion.

“We need to get things up to what’s needed to compete in C-USA,” Tramel said. “We need people who are returning to step up their performance and we need to keep acquiring talent in recruiting. That’s kind of the name of the game, and we have a tremendous opportunity here at Marshall.

“Not just looking at the opportunity in the swimming and diving program … We have a tremendous university, a beautiful campus. Look at the new engineering building (under construction) and the   pharmacy school that just opened.

“There’s plenty of excitement for what’s going on here, and on the athletic side, we have the Indoor Facility going up, with the sports medicine center and the academic center, all made possible by the Vision Campaign.

“It really is a great option for someone looking for a school because we have so many positives.”

Tramel pointed out that the Herd swimming and diving program, fully funded to the NCAA Division I maximum 14 grants-in-aid, also gains strength from academic aid available to prospective student-athletes. He also cited Marshall as “an inexpensive school to attend from out-of-state, with a lot of options available for aid.”

He said the focus of the home team in Fitch Natatorium hasn’t yet reached the point where he and assistant Ian Walsh are focused on the small picture.

“As you can see from the group coming in, you can get immediate playing time here,” Tramel said. “I get   continually asked the question by coaches, by recruits, ‘What do you need; what event do you need?’ It’s almost like you graduate a quarterback, you need a quarterback.

“The beauty is – and I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing – we still need everything. There’s really not an event we can’t enhance and improve. Is there an event that we need more desperately than others? Maybe, but at the end of the day, we’re really recruiting the best available talent. It’s not about a position. People talk about the NFL Draft and a team’s need, and when that’s not there, you just draft the best available player. We’re still in that position.

“We’re fully funded to 14 scholarships, and not every school in our conference has 14, so certainly that is an advantage, and not every team in our conference sponsors swimming (seven of 14, with the loss of Tulane and East Carolina to the AAC). Not everyone has the sport of diving, so that’s a benefit for us as well.”

Tramel said the Herd is looking forward to the 2014-15 season, which will start early in the fall with the West Virginia State Games at Fitch Natatorium. The Herd’s first team-versus-team competition comes at UNC Asheville, along with Gardner-Webb, in a double dual on Oct. 25. The first home double dual is set for Nov. 1, against Vanderbilt and Xavier.

“There’s an excitement going into the fall,” said Tramel, who was encouraged and enthused by his 2013-14 commitment and improvement. “The women on the team have created a private Facebook page where they share what they’re doing over the summer, their times, how they’re improving, and it’s great because it keeps everyone focused on what our goal is.

“We have improved and we’ve added talent, but all it is for us is potential right now. To have an amazing season -- the kind of season we want to have – there’s still plenty of work to do.”

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