Many times in sports, there are distractions. These can be another game, a rowdy fan group or not knowing the play. Most of the time, these distractions are uncontrollable, they’re part of the game and experience.
The Georgia Southern swim and dive team experienced distractions in their first home swim meet of the season Friday. But unlike a boisterous fan group or trying to remember if they locked their apartment, this distraction had been in the works since July.
This summer, GS made national headlines after a text message was sent between two prospective roommates.
“Her insta looks pretty normal not too n***erish,” the sender said in screenshots displayed on social media.
After the screenshots circulated and an apology text was sent blaming the racial slur on a typo for “triggerish”, the sender was identified as senior GS swimmer Courtney Schaefer. Since then, the idea of having a protest and a sit-in at a swim meet has manifested.
First-year head coach Amanda Caldwell had plans to implement more character and belief in her team, and the “triggerish” incident intensified the need for character building.
“What I can say about the team culture right now, is something that needed work on before any of that happened,” Caldwell said. “We’re working on how to function as a great team.”
In response to the school’s dealing with the incident, several minority groups on campus made plans to march to the RAC and sit-in on the swim meet. So the distraction was planned.
But with a protest forming just behind the glass window outside, the GS swim and dive team competed against fellow CCSA school, UNC-Asheville.
The Bulldogs didn’t have a dive team, so one of Caldwell’s goals for her team was to win without relying on their divers.
With sophomore Mackenzie Brown anchoring the 200 yard medley relay, the Eagles started the afternoon strong finishing first and third in the opening event.
Then UNC-A went on a tear, winning the next four events. But in three of the four events the Eagles lost, they finished second and third, which meant points.
At the first diving break, things looked bleak in the races for GS. And then the sit-in occurred.
As a group of about 20 students, draped in all black, walked single file across the family of spectators, the whole center held their breath. The workers of the meet, the coaches, the swimmers and the fans took a moment to soak in what was happening. But just a moment, before they turned back to the athletes flipping with spectacle off the boards.
“What I can tell you is that there’s going to be distractions, always,” Caldwell said. “We need to not focus on distractions, because they’re going to happen at any given point.”
Led by three sophomore divers, the dive team put up points that would’ve put the meet away. But that wasn’t the goal.
So back to the lanes the swimmers went, where the Bulldogs won three of the next four events with ease. The lone winner was Brown who swam a 58.56 100 yard backstroke, just out touching fellow Eagle, junior Anna Moers who swam a 58.77 race.
Just before the next diving break, those who had been silently sitting-in stood up and walked out. Every other fan stared at the protesters as they left the facility.
There were only two events after the diving break and UNC-A won the 100 yard breastroke, the first of two final races of the meet.
Schaefer led off the 400 yard freestyle relay. The senior’s split time of 54.03 gave the Eagles the start they needed to have their most electrifying race of the day. With a time of 3:35.35, GS won the final race by more than five seconds.
After the scores were calculated, the Eagles had won their second dual meet of the season—134-103 over the Bulldogs.
“There was a lot of laughter and post-meet chatter,” Caldwell said. “They know we won because of diving, but they’re very proud of their divers. We had our divers dive really well.”
While relying on the dive team wasn’t the method GS wanted to use to win the meet, the mission to bring the team more together took a step forward. The Eagles will hit the road to Campbell Saturday and won’t have another home meet until Nov. 3.
The season wasn’t defined by Friday’s meet, but it was a telling sign in the atmosphere and skill of the GS swim and dive team.
“I saw more confidence on the majority of the team,” Caldwell said. “You see your teammates doing that and you start having fun too. More magic is going to happen.”
McClain Baxley, The George-Anne Sports Editor, email@example.com