Coed Varsity Swimming · Aqua Dogs facing new, improved competition in Knoxville

After years of dominance in swimming, Bearden still holds a strong position in Knoxville as a great swimming program.

Over the past few years, though, the Aqua Dogs have seen an increase in competition from newer schools and talent around the city.

When Hardin Valley opened its doors in 2008 followed by STEM in 2010, many great swimmers began to either be zoned or made an effort to take their respective talent to two of Knoxville’s newest schools.

Bearden’s only two losses this season have come to STEM and Hardin Valley.

While they will have to wait until Jan. 22 to avenge those two regular season losses at the City Meet, the senior class earned a huge victory over Farragut on Sunday.

Hardin Valley has attracted many swimmers because of new zoning as well as strong coaching. In contrast, STEM as of 2012 has allowed students to transfer even if they live outside of Knox County.

Along with their strong academic focus and rigor in math and science, STEM has also allowed opportunities for sports such as swimming to attract top talent.

“It has always been at every school that swimmers who swim year round are usually the more competitive ones with only a few exceptions,” sophomore Luke Brice said. “Year round swimmers like to join STEM because it is downtown and the biggest year round facility is TNAC at Tennessee Aquatics, which you could walk from STEM to TNAC right after school.”

Added senior captain and Milligan College commit Isabel Siegel: “STEM has attracted many Tennessee Aquatic swimmers towards the school especially because they have practice down there daily. STEM has hurt Bearden’s team because some people I know that go there and swim year round, they would have come to Bearden if STEM wasn’t around.”

With the dawn of schools like STEM in Knoxville, Bearden and other public schools have had to adjust to STEM’s new power in swimming.

“STEM has become a force to be reckoned with,” senior Taylor Blake said. “Everything about them has improved from dives to overall form, along with that their diving team is also very formidable, beating most other teams out.

“STEM truly has changed the dynamic of inter high swimming in Knoxville. They’ve made it so that other teams have to stress recruiting for their dive teams just to compete with STEM in a meet. So, overall STEM truly has changed swimming here, and I honestly expect them to keep changing it.”

While STEM has made a major impact in the dynamic of swimming in Knoxville, schools such as Bearden who may have fewer year-round swimmers can still compete due to their sheer size.

Though a team may have a large percentage of their swimmers swimming year-round, they will not be able to compete unless they have enough depth to counteract bigger schools.

Though Hardin Valley and STEM have risen to power in Knoxville, Bearden still has remained a major threat.

With around one-third of Bearden’s team being year-round swimmers, combined with its large size, the Bulldogs have remained and will remain a strong contender in Knoxville swimming for years to come.