The Hendrix College swimming teams will compete today through Saturday in the New South Intercollegiate Swimming League championships at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Because some members of the NSISL give swimming scholarships and Hendrix does not, Hendrix coach Jim Kelly sees this meet as mainly a "rehearsal and preparation" for his teams for the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship at Sewanee, Tennessee next week. All SCAC schools are NCAA Division III and thus do not give athletic scholarships.
"The SCAC championships are mainly what we're focusing on," said Kelly. "We won't be shaved and tapered for this meet, and any of our swimmers who have classes that conflict with races won't be entered in those races this week."
Schools in the NSISL besides Hendrix are UALR, Ouachita Baptist, Henderson, Austin College, Delta State, and John Brown University. The NSISL was formed after the disintegration of the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference in the late 1980s in order to give several Arkansas schools, including Hendrix, the opportunity to compete in a "championship format and qualify people for national championships," said Kelly.
Top male swimmers for Hendrix include sophomore Jed Cain, junior Josh Ham, and sophomore Colin Blair.
As a freshman, Cain swam the 200-yard individual medley -- the butterfly, backstroke, breast-stroke, and free style -- in last year's SCAC and finished in the top eight. He also competed in 100 and 200-breast stroke races.
"Jed is capable of swimming any event," said Kelly. "He'll be in the individual medley for sure this year, but he may swim the 100 and 200 backstroke instead of the breast stroke, depending on where we think he can do the best."
Ham has finished in the top eight in the 200-yard free style in the SCAC, and will swim it and the 100 and 200-yard free style this year.
Blair barely missed a top-eight finish in the 200-yard backstroke and made the top eight in the grueling 500-yard free style at the SCAC championships last year.
"Colin is very versatile," said Kelly. "He could finish in the top eight in any type of race. He's very strong in free style, backstroke, and butterfly, and if he were that good in the breast stroke, he'd be great in a medley race."
Two divers, freshmen Christopher Howland and Jackson Jennings, could also be important point-getters in the SCAC, said Kelly.
The Lady Warriors are led by freshmen Jennifer Birkman and Kassi Darakhshan. Birkman will swim the 200 and 500-yard free style races and possibly the 200-yard butterfly at UALR.
"Jennifer is capable of finishing in the middle of the pack in those races," said Kelley.
Darakhshan will compete in the 100 and 200-yard backstroke races and in the 200-yard individual medley.
"Kassi is very versatile," said Kelly, "and is probably our best girl swimmer on paper. She is capable of very good times, and she's very strong."