Having a meet after Thanksgiving is uncharted waters for the Tennessee swimming and diving team.
The last time the Vols hosted the Tennessee Invitational was 2015, but the meet was the week before the holiday. Now the Vols prepare for action after the break as Duke, North Carolina, Denver, Penn, Carson-Newman and Marshall come to Allan Jones Aquatic Center for a three-day meet this Thursday through Saturday.
“It’s a little different coming off the Thanksgiving break going into a meet; this is something we haven’t done in a long time,” diving coach Dave Parrington said. “There was a time back in the 90s when we would go both before and after Thanksgiving, but now finals (exams) are earlier, so it’s a little more difficult.”
The Vols have had a month off since their last meet; in that time the women’s team has moved to No. 7 and the men's to No. 15 in the most recent CSCAA poll.
Head coach Matt Kredich says the month off has been notably beneficial for his team.
“We have gotten into a really consistent rhythm with training,” Kredich said. “It’s easier to control your environment when you are not traveling. We have been really healthy and have been able to train consistently better every week.”
The Vols have used the month off to focus on developing specific skills as they prepare for multiple teams to arrive in town this weekend.
“Some of it is skill work around the walls, turns and finishes,” Kredich said. “We have also been able to review video and talk about race planning, and then each individual has one or two technical issues with either their surface swimming or their below-the-surface swimming that they have been able to work on.”
North Carolina is the only ranked opponent out of the five schools that will come to Knoxville for this meet, with their men at No. 22 and their women at No. 21. The Denver men are listed under the “also receiving votes” category, with three.
Kredich believes the top competition the Vols have faced this season (Indiana, Auburn, Kentucky, Louisville and Wisconsin) has them prepared for the challenge of a multifaceted meet like this one.
“Our schedule has given us a lot of opportunities to swim in close races and in really close competition under a lot of pressure,” Kredich said. “The meets have tested our ability to maintain concentration through multiple events over two, three and four hours at a time.”
This will be the first meet of the season that the Vols will compete in every NCAA Championship event, meaning all races, relays and dives will be in play.
It will be the first chance for the Vol divers to compete on the platform this season.
“This invite is kind of the first big-time, long event, where we will truly be able to put that stuff (training) to the test,” Tennessee diver Liam Stone said.
Stone, the defending SEC Diver of the Year, had the opportunity to compete in the Australia Diving Grand Prix during the month off.
“It was a good meet, it went well,” Stone said. “Dave and I were happy with how it went. It was a little bit rushed getting back and getting straight back into training and stuff preparing for this meet, but I think we did a good job of handling the training load, and I am feeling good.”
This meet provides another opportunity for improvement for young divers like Ana Hernandez, who had a “breakout day” in her last dual meet.
“In Ana’s case, as I would have done with many divers on the team, we came back after that outstanding performance and went right back to the basics,” Parrington said. “Then we started working on some new dives, one of which she will use on the platform on Saturday.”
Tennessee has already been tested multiple times this fall season, but this meet, in particular, is going to provide a new challenge that the Vols are looking forward to, with the Tennessee Invitational being composed of six sessions.
“The endurance of our ability to focus will be tested here. It’s been tested really well but not in this environment,” Kredich said. “This will offer a unique test for us.”
The preliminaries will begin each day at 10 a.m., and the finals of those events will begin around 6 p.m. the same day.