The Early Days
For over fifty years the Athens Bulldog Swim Club has been promoting swimming excellence in the greater Athens area. Founded in the 1940s as the Athens Swim Club, the team provided generations of Athens area youth an opportunity to participate in year-round competitive swimming. With its home in Stegeman Hall, a WPA era indoor pool, the program was once run by legendary Georgia Tennis Coach, Dan Magill.
Throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s the Athens Swim Club succeeded in making a name for itself on the local and state level, but it was not until 1981, when Harvey Humphries took over the duties of head coach, that the program acquired national recognition. As an Assistant Swim Coach at the University of Georgia, Humphries added Bulldog to the Athens Swim Club’s name, and ABSC has been making its presence felt on United States Swimming ever since.
Under Coach Humphries, ABSC swimmers have won gold at the Georgia State Meet, Speedo Southern Sectionals, Junior Nationals, Senior Nationals, and the World Student Games.
The 1980s and early 1990s were a period of great success for ABSC as Athens natives Eric Fors, Paige Wilson, and Mark Holmes all went on to swim for the University of Georgia. Paige Wilson, an NCAA All American, went on to become one of the most decorated women’s swimmers in the history of UGA, and in 2003 she was inducted into the Athens Sports Hall of Fame.
On to the 1990s
In the later 1990s ABSC continued its success as Kara Manglitz, Stephanie Buck, Matt Buck went on to become Bulldogs at UGA. Manglitz and Stephanie Buck earned multiple All American honors, while Matt Buck became an NCAA Champion in the Men’s 200 Yard Breast. With this swim Buck became UGA’s first men’s champion in an individual event in 43 years. Swimmers such as ABSC’s Gil Stovall would soon follow suit, and drought of champions for the Varsity Men came to an end.
In the mid-1990s Coach Humphries turned over the duties of developing young talent to a recent UGA graduate and 4 year swimming letterman named Jonathan Foggin. In addition to his collegiate experience under Coaches Bauerle and Humphries, Foggin brought with him ideas that he learned in Tennessee from his High School Coach, Olympic Gold Medalist, Matt Vogel.
Beginning with a group that contained future UGA Swimmer and All American, Stephanie Buck, Coach Foggin set about laying the groundwork for ABSC’s success into the 1990s. In addition to Buck, swimmers such as Lucy Lindsey, Hilary Leigh, Robert Hamilton, and Erica Malagon went on to win multiple titles at the Georgia Age Group State Championships. Leigh and Malagon have posted times that ranked among the Top 16 in the Nation for their respective age groups, and under Coach Humphries’s continued tutelage, Coach Foggin’s swimmers have gone on to compete at Junior and Senior Nationals and Division I NCAAs.
A New Century
As ABSC entered the new millenium, it became a clearinghouse for top talent, as swimming’s superstars came to Athens to train with Coach Humphries.
ABSC Olympians of that generation included Silver Medalist Kristy Kowal, and US Olympic Gold Medalists Sheila Taormina and Courtney Shealy. In subsequent years ABSC was the home club of Olympic Silver Medalist Maritza Correia and fellow USA National Team Member, Mary Descenza.
After the 2004 Olympics, ABSC continued to draw top swimmers into its ranks. Three ABSC swimmers, Gil Stovall, Kara Lynn Joyce, and Allison Schmitt participated in the 2008 Olympics. At the 2012 Games in London, Schmitt went on to become one of swimming’s biggest stars, winning five medals, three of them gold. She was joined in one of her gold-medal performances by ABSC teammate, Shannon Vreeland, who helped power the American women to a new Olympic Record in the 4×200 Meter Freestyle Relay.
But Olympic competition is not the only place ABSC swimmers have had a chance to shine–the Paralympics have been a venue for Bulldog success too. In 2008 and 2012 ABSC’s Lindsay Grogan placed among the top three at US Paralympic trials, and her finishes there earned her a spot at the US Paralympic training facility in Colorado Springs, where she and other top athletes work to prepare for Rio in 2016.
The 2000s and Beyond
Switching attention back to the Age Group arena, in 2007 ABSC added another full time coach in Kevin Taylor. A product of the Swim Atlanta system, Taylor brought a wealth of experience with him, and was given charge of ABSC’s Developmental Groups. As the 2000s moved into the teens, Coach Taylor’s swimmers continued to strengthen the program from the bottom up, with ABSC claiming its first Age Group State title in 2013.
On the Senior level, ABSC continued to feed talent into the college ranks, as swimmers like Stephanie Juncker went on to a four year career at Louisville. At about the same time, Caroline Bevillard, Pirie Humphries, Amber Juncker formed the core of the strong Georgia Southern women’s teams of the late 2000s. More recently, Joyce Lu and Chris Powell have gone on to the next level, continuing their swimming careers at the University of Chicago and UGA respectively, while in 2015 ABSC swimmers had one of its most successful year to date, putting 5 of its 9 graduating seniors (Anna Rose Moore–Georgia Southern, Jacob Musgrove–South Georgia, Eliza Petersen–Carson Newman, Kara Powell–Towson, and Annie Williamson–Georgia) in college swimming programs.
As United States Swimming enters the 21st century, the Athens Bulldog Swim Club can look toward an increasingly bright future. With its home base at the University of Georgia’s state of the art Gabrielsen Natatorium, ABSC has access to one of the premier training facilities in the world. Add to that a staff of experienced coaches, and a team philosophy that emphasizes stroke technique, a good work ethic, and having fun, and you have the elements of swimming success…Bulldawg Style!