Vanderbilt swimming caps off season at SEC Championships

Although Vanderbilt swimming’s 2020-21 season has come to an end, the future is bright. 


Vanderbilt swimming competes in the SEC Championships. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Andy Carr, Staff Writer

Vanderbilt swimming finished its 2020-21 season last Saturday at the SEC championships held at the University of Georgia Gabrielsen Natatorium. The Commodores finished last out of 12 teams with a four-day total score of 154 points. 

The Commodores had strong individual performances from junior Lizzy Colwell in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:15.64), as well as first-year Eleanor Beers, who clocked in at a time of 51.10 in the prelims of the 100-yard freestyle. Vanderbilt also had solid finishes in the 400-yard freestyle relay (3:26.33)—which featured Tonner DeBeer, Beers, Gabriela Pierobon Mays and Kaley Buchanan – and the 400-yard medley relay (3:41.94)—which included Pierobon Mays, Colwell, DeBeer and Beers.

Vanderbilt finished the season 0-4 in meets this year. All the meets were away this season, as the team travelled to face the Kentucky Wildcats, the Tennessee Volunteers, the Miami Hurricanes and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.  

Due to the pandemic, this season was not quite the same as past years. Last year, the Commodores had eight additional meets before the SEC championships, and they finished the season 6-6. Nevertheless, Coach Jeremy Organ said that the team was just happy to be able to compete.

“It means a lot for us to be able to get out there, especially our seniors,” Organ said. “To be able to go through the challenges they’ve faced and still get to finish their senior year means a lot.”

Coach Organ explained that the team appreciates Vanderbilt’s efforts to make a season happen in a year when several colleges and universities around the U.S. have decided to not field various sports teams due to COVID-19.

“It takes a lot for a season to happen—it really takes a whole tribe to compete safely,” Organ said. “The Athletic Department was certainly busy dealing with all of the protocols, setting up practices and planning travel.” 

Face masks, travel restrictions and social distancing did not make life easy for players, coaches and anyone else involved with the team. Because of these roadblocks, the team had to be creative with how they bonded, communicated and worked together.

“It’s hard to build relationships when we’re always on Zoom,” Organ said. “I think we’re all ready to be done with it. But it’s up to the athletes to keep looking forward. It’s been a tough year, but I think a strong piece of our team is that we accept everything and move on.”

 While the season may not have gone how the team expected or hoped for, the Commodores have a lot of reason to be excited about the future. Many swimmers notched personal bests, and the Commodores are a young team with six seniors.  

“I’m really excited about the future,” Organ said. “It’ll be nice to put this season in the rearview mirror. We have an excellent junior class that will be tremendous leaders, and we’ve got a strong recruiting class coming in next year.”

One of the current junior leaders that Coach Organ mentioned is Lizzy Colwell. She owns the Vanderbilt school record in the 100 breaststroke (1:01.37), the freshman record in the 400 IM (4:20.91) and is second all-time at Vanderbilt in the 400 IM (4:20.9). She is joined by nine other juniors, so her class of 10 will look to lead the team next season as seniors.

Another junior who will be excited to step up to the challenge of leading the Commodores next season is Tonner DeBeer. DeBeer owns two Vanderbilt school records: the 100 backstroke (54.36) and the 50 backstroke (24.91). While DeBeer has had the greatest amount of success swimming backstroke, she also ranks second all-time at Vanderbilt in the 50 freestyle (23.19) and third all-time at Vanderbilt in the 100 butterfly (54.12). 

The seniors on this year’s swimming squad were Lauren Bergmann, Kaley Buchanan, Brooke Ellis, Lindsey Gordon, Lara Hernandez-Tome and Reagan Roob. All six individuals were significant contributors to the team throughout their careers at Vanderbilt, and many of them rank in the top-10 all-time at Vanderbilt in their respective events.

Although Vanderbilt swimming’s 2020-21 season has come to an end, the future is bright.