March 22, 2018
The Georgia Coastal Aquatic Team has been around since 1994, steadily growing and raising the bar. Savannah-based GCAT has produced numerous athletes that have won many Georgia state titles, and many of their swimmers have left their mark at top collegiate programs, including Auburn, Tennessee, UGA, and Stanford. But this current crop of athletes has accomplished something that the team has never done before: Qualified double digit athletes, 12 to be exact, to compete at the NCSA Junior National Championships this week. According to GCAT Head Coach Bill Forrester, he has had as many as 8 swimmers (once), with their typical number between 3-6 athletes a year with the speed to compete at this level. Forrester says, “This speaks to the level of commitment that these young women and men have demonstrated year-round over the past 5 years, even 10 years or more, to make it to this NCSA meet.”
This squad is led by three high school senior boys, Dillon Hall (IM, breaststroke) Harrison Wayner (IM, breaststroke) and Andrew Royek (butterfly, freestyle). Tyler Bland (breaststroke), Aidan Gaskill (breaststroke), Aaron Seymour (backstroke), Sam Parker (backstroke), Bryan Dunne (backstroke) and JP Fernandez (butterfly) round out the roster. Parker, Dunne and Fernandez all qualified late, at the end of February, with huge swims during the Southeast Divisional Championships held in Savannah. “Bryan, Sam and JP used their final opportunities 2 weeks ago to reach their goal times and qualify for NCSA. Their teammates were at every turn to cheer and push them forward during their races. That is what swimming is all about,” said Forrester.
The girl’s group is represented by high school junior Sam Eason (freestyle) and sophomores Audrey Pastorek (IM, backstroke) and Tori Rucker (butterfly). All of the girls are veterans of Georgia High School and USA Swimming State Championships, with many visits to the podium between them. According to Forrester, “These girls are battle-tested and ready to compete. They are all going to swim in college and this meet is a great showcase for them. We expect big things this weekend.”
Approximately 900 swimmers from around the country will compete this week. The NCSA minimum time standards are dropping a few tenths of a second every year, a sure sign that swimmers are getting faster and faster. Forrester, a U.S. Olympian in 1980, loves the competition. “The chance to race against many of the finest 18-and-under swimmers in the USA will inspire us to bring our ‘A game.’ They have all practiced hard and are mentally prepared to make that happen!”