As the 2017-2018 academic year opens at Oklahoma Christian University, 52 student-athletes step onto campus to compete in the inaugural season of intercollegiate men’s and women’s swimming programs.
With the addition of the swimming programs, Oklahoma Christian now boasts 16 varsity sports, making it the third Oklahoma university to offer intercollegiate swimming.
The Eagles and Lady Eagles will compete with five-time Olympic medalist Josh Davis serving as the head coach. Davis earned three Olympic gold medals at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, Georgia and added two silver medals at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia. At the 2000 Olympics, Davis broke the U.S. record in the 200-meter freestyle, his specialty event.
Freshman swimmer Riley Powelson said Davis provides a role model to the athletes on the team.
“He is very involved with his athletes and wants us to succeed in the pool and out in the community,” Powelson said. “He believes in us as individuals not just athletes. I could not be more blessed to be given the opportunity to be coached by him.”
Joining Davis as assistant coaches are Chris Van Slooten and Adam Bowen. Van Slooten previously served as the head coach of the American Energy Swim Club, one of Oklahoma’s top swim clubs. Bowen, a certified personal trainer, worked in the local health and fitness industry. With experience in aquatics training, Davis believes Bowen will be a great addition in assisting to improve the strength and toughness of the swimmers
Powelson, a swimmer from Edmond, Okla., represents one of 15 women on the swimming roster. Powelson swam for Edmond Santa Fe High School, qualifying for the 6A State Swimming Championship her freshman season. As a high school senior, Powelson received 2017 Girls All-City First Team honors and was named to the 2017 West Girls All-State Swim Team.
Despite offers from other established swimming programs, Powelson chose Oklahoma Christian to further her swimming career.
“I chose Oklahoma Christian’s swim program over others because right when I stepped on campus I felt at home,” Powelson said. “The school had my heart and having a swim team was just icing on the cake.”
Aside from freshman, the swim team also welcomes several upperclassmen to the roster.
Senior Megan McKinley, from Colorado Springs, competed in the state competition for breaststroke and relay races throughout her high school career. Although she said she chose Oklahoma Christian for reasons other than swimming, she also missed swimming and is excited to compete for the Eagles during her last academic year.
“After swimming in high school, I was disappointed that Oklahoma Christian did not have a team my freshman year,” McKinley said. “I was incredibly excited to find out that they were starting one and I would be able to swim with the first class.”
Oklahoma Christian will be competing in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, a premier NCAA Division II conference, during the inaugural season.
“My expectations for this first season are for us to train hard, support each other, and to enjoy what we are doing,” Powelson said.
The Eagles and Lady Eagles open competition on the road against Oklahoma Baptist September 22. After traveling for two meets, the Lady Eagles will return home to host Adams State on October 21 at the Edmond YMCA Recreation and Aquatic Center. The Eagles will also compete at home in an intrasquad scrimmage on October 21.