BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - The 2008-09 Union College men's swimming team looks to improve on a 14th-place finish at the NAIA Swimming and Diving National Championship as the season starts Saturday at University of the Cumberlands.
Union head coach Rafael Forti returns seven members of last year's team and six swam at the NAIA National Championship. The group combined for seven individual swims and four relay events. Forti added five freshmen to the team for his largest team during his tenure at Union.
The elder statesman of the team is senior Adam Woodward (Hopkinsville, Ky.) Woodward is a fifth-year senior and is focusing on swimming for the first time in his career. He was a member of the Union soccer team for the previous four years in addition to the swimming team. Forti commented that he looks forward to what Woodward can do with a full pre-season training regimen. He was a part of all four national relay teams and swam in the 100-yard freestyle event.
Alan Thomas Saylor (Lexington, Ky.) returned in great shape for this season Forti said. Saylor swam the second leg of the 200 medley relay at the national championship. He was close on other individual cuts in the breaststroke last season, but is aiming for those cuts this season.
Karl Smith (Lexington, Ky.) competed in three relay events at the 2008 NAIA National Championship and he was a part of two school record relay teams. He is one of two returners on the team that primarily swim the butterfly events. Forti is going to stretch Smith out from sprint events to longer distances.
Bradley Hobbs (Flat Lick, Ky.) returns for the long-distance freestyle events. Forti looks for improved times from the junior as he gets yardage in the pool.
Forti also returns a trio of sophomores, Michael Viscardi (Marietta, Ga.), Jeremiah Back (Flatgap, Ky.) and Colin McEachran (Blenheim, Canada). The group combined for 14 national swims, 10 individual school records and part of three relay records.
Viscardi posted the best individual finish by a Bulldog swimmer at the nationals last season, with an 11th-place finish in the 200 breaststroke. Forti looks for him to help lead the team back to the nationals. With the additional depth on the team Viscardi will focus more on the breaststroke events.
Back is the team captain for the season and swam in four national events, three relays and the 100 butterfly in March. During his freshman season, he obtained four "B" cuts and Forti looks for those to be "A" cuts this season.
McEachran is Forti's go-to guy in the distance events. He owns the school record in the 500, 1,000 and 1,650 freestyle events. As a freshman, he swam at the nationals in the 500 and 1,650 races.
The freshman class filled holes on the roster. Roberto Bertholo, Jr. (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and Shawn Spoon (Morristown, Tenn.) swim butterfly events. Travis Faig (Sevierville, Tenn.) and Anthony Savicki (Hebron, Ky.) are both individual medley swimmers. Faig will also swim in the backstroke and Savicki will add breaststroke events. David Johnson (Louisville, Ky.) rounds out the incoming freshmen and is a freestyle swimmer.
The home portion of the schedule starts on October 25 when Campbellsville (Ky.) University and Bellarmine (Ky.) University visit Barbourville. Union will swim at the Appalachian Swimming and Diving Conference Championship in February before the NAIA Swimming and Diving National Championship in St. Louis, Mo. from March 4-7.