Tennessee freshman Meghan Small has made a splash since joining the swim team last fall.
She wasted no time and picked up her first two career wins in the Volunteers’ second meet of the season in the 200-yard backstroke (1:56.86) and the 200-yard individual medley (2:00.63), both of which qualify for NCAA B-cut times. Last weekend against Georgia, she trimmed her time in the 200 backstroke down to 1:55.64 and her 200 IM down to 1:58.31, keeping herself in the conversation for Tennessee top performers week after week.
While many athletes can be described as intense and, at times, inconsistent, Tennessee head coach Matt Kredich says Small is different.
“She’s not somebody that is particularly fiery or volatile, she just brings a really steady attitude and a really steady work ethic,” Kredich said.
Small did not start swimming competitively until she was 13 and says that transitioning from club swimming to swimming as part of a team at UT was definitely something that required some adjustments.
“I think coming from club swimming, you focus more on yourself and that aspect of the swimming world,” Small said. “Coming to a team where it’s not “I” anymore, it’s all about us being together and the points are not just you winning. It’s to swim for your team, not just yourself.”
The training and meet schedule on top of being a college student was another huge adjustment she had to make.
“The concept of a dual meet has been the biggest challenge,” Small said. “To be able to go fast in the middle of the week — after classes — is a new thing for me, but I think all of the freshmen have definitely handled it pretty well.”
And her teammates agree that she has adjusted well to those changes. Senior Colleen Callahan also swims in the breaststroke and individual medley events and has had the chance to watch Small’s progress closely since the two train together.
“It’s great to have her as a training partner in a lot of our IM sets,” Callahan said. “She definitely made a great transition into the team. She’s a great positive force in practices; it’s been great having her.”
Small has earned SEC honors twice in her short career. She was named SEC Swimmer of the Week after winning all three of her events in Tennessee’s meet against Auburn in November. She posted two NCAA B-cut times with her 1:56.01 finish in the 200-yard backstroke and 4:13.56 in the 400-individual medley. She also finished the 200-yard freestyle with a season-best time of 1:48.03.
Most recently, she was named SEC Freshman of the Week for her performance in the meet at South Carolina on Jan. 6. She was one of three female Tennessee swimmers to win two individual events at that meet, taking the 200 freestyle (1:48.71) and the 200 backstroke (1:57.77).
She credits having strong upperclassmen influences like Callahan to her success early in her career.
“Patricia Forrester and Colleen (Callahan) have definitely taken me under their wing,” she said. “Colleen, from more of a training aspect, pushes me every day in practice; and then Trish, more outside of the pool. She definitely helps keep not just myself, but everyone happy and just brings such a positive attitude to practice.”
Following the Vols’ final home meet of the season against Georgia, Coach Kredich named Small as one of a few Tennessee swimmers who has really started to hit her stride in the January meets and is very pleased with the progress she has made this season.
“She’s been just a joy to work with,” Kredich said. “She’s really patient and she’s very studious. She works hard in the water. As much as anything, she’s just really steady and consistent.”