Stickels to Ozzie to Geer: ‘Bama Sprint Group Succeeds Amid Coaching Carousel

by Ben Dornan 8

February 21st, 2021 Coaching Changes, College, National, News, SEC

SEC – WOMEN’S SWIMMING & DIVING + MEN’S DIVING

  • Wednesday, February 17 – Saturday, February 20, 2021
  • W Swimming: Gabrielson Natatorium – Athens, GA (Eastern Zone)
  • W&M Diving: Mizzou Aquatics Center – Columbia, MO (Central Time Zone)
  • Defending Champion: Tennessee (1x) (2020 results)
  • Live results
  • Live Video – SEC Network
  • Championship Central
  • Psych Sheets

While Alabama wound up 4th and couldn’t quite catch Kentucky, Florida, or Georgia this week at the 2021 SEC Championships, it certainly was through no fault of their sprint freestyle.

In the women’s 50 freestyle, Kalia Antoniou (21.91) and Cora Dupre (21.82) went 1-2 scoring 32 and 28 points, respectively. Then tonight Alabama swimmer Morgan Scott won the 100 freestyle in a 47.50 while Cora Dupre picked up bronze (47.90).

That swim with which Scott won tonight’s 100 freestyle SEC Championship title was not only a new personal best time, but it was a new Alabama school record in the event. The swim broke teammate Kalia Antoniou‘s record of 47.82. Prior to that, the record was held by Flora Molnar‘s at a of 47.98.

Just a few events after Scott’s 100 freestyle victory, the University of Alabama women came back to win the 4×100 freestyle relay, hitting a 3:10.28. That was enough to beat out Georgia who finished in second with a 3:12.08 and Tennessee who were third with a 3:13.10.

The winning team managed to each pull off sub-48 splits, including an opening split of 47.93 by Kalia Antoniou which was faster than her finals swim tonight.

Alabama 2021 SEC Championships 4×100 Freestyle Splits

That swim for the Alabama women gives them the quickest time in the nation thus far and is within 4 seconds on California’s 3:06.96 NCAA record in the event from 2019.

The individual 100 freestyle and 4×100 freestyle wins for Alabama are a true testament to their current sprint power that has been developing over the past few years. While there are certainly a number of factors that contribute to a team’s success, one that can’t be ignored in this case is the effect of Coley Stickels.

Stickels took over as head coach of Alabama in April of 2019 and has already had a significant impact on the team’s sprint success. For proof that Alabama has improved in recent years, we can take a look at 50 and 100 freestyle rankings over the past few seasons. Along with helping those who he met at Alabama, Stickels inspired two of Alabama’s current lead sprinters to make the move from Indiana with him. Morgan Scott, Cora Dupre, and Julia Wolf had previously swum with the Hoosiers but made the move to Alabama after the 2018-2019 season.

Combining Scott, Dupre, and those other sprinters already at Alabama, take a look at how the school’s NCAA-wide ranks have improved over the past few seasons.

Alabama Swimmers Within Top-100 NCAA 50 Freestyles By Year

2017-2018

  • 15th: Bailey Scott – 21.96
  • 40th: Flora Molnar – 22.29
  • 56th: Linsey Gkolomeev – 22.39
  • 84th: Temarie Tomley – 22.54

2018-2019

2019-2020 (First Season With Stickels As Head Coach)

Alabama Swimmers Within Top-100 NCAA 100 Freestyles By Year

2017-2018

  • 32nd: Bailey Scott – 48.38

2018-2019

2019-2020 (First Season With Stickels As Head Coach)

As we near the end of the 2020-2021 season, the Alabama women are continuing on the upward trajectory they’ve seen over the past few seasons. Their NCAA-wide ranks put them in good shape for the upcoming 2021 collegiate championships. In the 50 freestyle, Kalia Antoniou and Cora Dupre sit at #3 and #5 in the nation with a time of 21.69 and 21.82, respectively. Morgan Scott also sits within the top 15 with her 22.07 for 13th.

NCAA Top 15 2020-2021 To Date – 50 Freestyle

  1. Kate Douglass (Virginia) – 21.42
  2. Thompson, Sarah Thompson (Mizzou) – 21.57
  3. Antoniou, Kalia Antoniou (Alabama) – 21.69
  4. Alons, Kylee Alons (NC State) – 21.70
  5. Dupre, Cora Dupre (Alabama) / Katie Mack (Florida) – 21.82
  6. Keil, Megan Keil (Mizzou) – 21.83
  7. Berkoff, Katharine Berkoff (NC State) – 21.84
  8. Parker, Maxine Parker (Georgia) – 21.93
  9. Gabi Fa’Amausili (Georgia) / Lexi Cuomo (Virginia) – 21.99
  10. Gabi Albiero (Louisville) – 22.03
  11. Mona McSharry (Tennessee) / Morgan Scott (Alabama) – 22.07
  12. Bailey Grinter (Tennessee) / Grace Countie (UNC) – 22.08

In the 100, Morgan Scott‘s new school record gives her the 3rd fastest time in the nation this season while teammate Kalia Antonious sits in 6th with a 47.82 and Cora Dupre sits in 9th with a 47.90. Having a 3-6-9 ranking in any event in the NCAA is certainly a mark of sheer strength for a team. The one caveat is that we still have yet to see the Pac-12, Big Ten, and Big 12 at conference this season, all of which take place next week and could shake up these rankings.

NCAA Top 15 2020-2021 To Date – 50 Freestyle

  1. Douglass, Kate (Virginia) – 46.83
  2. Isabel Ivey (Cal) – 47.24
  3. Morgan Scott (Alabama) – 47.50
  4. Kylee Alons (NC State) – 47.73
  5. Maxine Parker (Georgia) – 47.75
  6. Kalia Antoniou (Alabama) / Tjasa Pinter (Tennessee) – 47.82
  7. Chloe Stepanek (Texas A&M) – 47.84
  8. Cora Dupre (Alabama) – 47.90
  9. Sarah Thompson (Mizzou) – 47.94
  10. Riley Gaines (Kentucky) – 48.21
  11. Taila Bates (Florida) – 48.23
  12. Maddie Smith (Kentucky) – 48.24
  13. Kelly Pash (Texas) – 48.29
  14. Robin Neumann (Cal) – 48.34

Note that Alabama is the only team with 3 swimmers in the top 15 of both the 50 and 100 freestyles. Further, Alabama has 3 swimmers in the top 10 of the 100 free while no other team has more than 1.

With a clear improvement since Stickels started as head coach of Alabama, they have certainly surged to the top of the women’s freestyle ranks. The big question now is what will happen to that momentum following Stickels’ departure from the team. It was recently announced that he would be stepping away from the position and since then, associate head coach Ozzie Quevedo has been leading the charge. Clearly, Quevedo has been able to maintain and manage the team amid Stickels’ departure but the shift in coaching at the end of December was not the only one that will occur this year.

Beginning in the fall of 2021, Margo Geer will take on the role and will look to keep working the sprint freestyle powerhouse. Geer originally found her way to Alabama when she made the move as a pro swimmer training with Stickels at Indiana. She has been swimming there ever since but recently announced her retirement from the sport as she shifts her sights towards coaching.

Margo Geer certainly knows what it takes to be a world-class sprint freestyler, won the 2013 NCAA titles in the 50 free and the 2013/2014 titles in the 100. Internationally, she has raced for the US at Pan Pacs, Pan Ams, and Worlds, picking up a number of freestyle relay medals.

With such a turbulent year which will include 2 separate head coaching changes, it will be exciting to see how Alabama shapes out and if Geer can translate her in-pool prowess to continued success for Alabama in the sprint free.

FINAL SCORES

1. Kentucky, University of 1124
2. University of Florida 1071
3. Georgia, University of 999
4. University of Alabama 973
5. Tennessee, University of, Knox 934
6. Texas A&M University 839
7. Missouri 614.5
8. University of Arkansas 595
9. Auburn University 510
10. Louisiana State University 390.5
11. South Carolina, University of, 276
12. Vanderbilt University 154

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Questionable
10 days ago

It still feels weird that Bama would hire Geer as the head coach while she has no upper level coaching experience while having someone like Ozzie already in their hand and clearly showing he has what it takes to be a Power 5 D1 head coach.

Tomek
Reply to  Questionable
10 days ago

Perhaps the answer is that some coaches prefer just to coach and not worry about the whole adminstrative burden that comes with the head coach position? This is just my personal take on the situation with zero inside knowledge.

Last edited 10 days ago by Tomek
Guerra
Reply to  Tomek
10 days ago

That’s a good point. I think that Ozzie is more than qualified and deserving of being a head coach. Maybe he just wants to coach and do the things that he excels at in his skill set. I hope he’s happy and given the opportunity to be successful. His leadership, under the circumstances, and the character of the team was impressive.

Coach
Reply to  Guerra
10 days ago

Ozzie was not given the option of being the head coach.

Coach
Reply to  Tomek
10 days ago

So the solution to that is hiring someone who has no management/administrative experience?

Coachy
Reply to  Questionable
10 days ago

And by “upper level coaching experience” you mean “any coaching experience at all”

SCCOACH
10 days ago

I don’t like giving credit to a coach that quit mid season, sorry

Doug
Reply to  SCCOACH
9 days ago

No one asked you to like it; Coley deserves credit for what he did to develop the women’s team. The story has many twists and turns. Stay tuned…..