June 18, 2014
Over the summer, AuburnTigers.com will sit down with each member of Auburn’s swimming and diving coaching staff to recap the 2013-14 season as well as give a look back at SEC Championships and NCAA Championships over the last 20 seasons. Next, assistant coach Demerae Christianson, who swam on three of Auburn’s five NCAA Championship teams from 2002-2004.
Q: You’ve been back at Auburn for the last two seasons, talk about this past season and what you saw out of the women’s team?
A: This year, the positives that we had with a really young team and especially seeing that our upcoming sophomore class is the depth of our women’s team. They are continuing to make NCAAs and continuing to be strong leaders for this team moving forward. We feel like we’ve recruited a very large incoming freshman class with a lot of depth and talent. We’re going to look to our upperclassman to mold the freshman and take their lead. Our sophomore class has shown to be the strength of our team and that’s something that is really exciting heading into the future.
Q: What was it like back when you were a student-athlete and how have things changed at Auburn?
A: I was very grateful that Brett (Hawke) asked me to come back to my alma mater, which is a place that I love dearly. It was a no-brainer to want to come back here and be a part of a tradition of excellence that I was lucky enough to help create when I swam here during my four years. Just to be able to come back and try to win for Auburn made it easy for me to come back.
Q: You swam on some dominant teams from 2001-2004, talk about what it was like to compete on those squads?
A: I remember my freshman year, we surprised everyone. The year before I got to Auburn, the women finished 11th at NCAAs in 1999 and fifth in 2000 . Then as I came in as a freshman, we finished fourth at the NCAA Championships and we were leading the meet until the very last day, until we were disqualified in the 400 freestyle relay during prelims. I think I see a lot of similarities to when I swam during my freshman and sophomore year because a lot of our depth was in my freshman class. We were a really young team and as a freshman class we finished fourth and as a sophomore class we made it a priority to mold the freshman to understand that there was a lot of expectations when you were an Auburn swimmer. That really set the tone for the rest of my time at Auburn.
Q: In 2002, Auburn won its first-ever NCAA Women’s Championship and that began a long run of success. Did you realize that your teams were making history during your time at Auburn?
A: I think what made my experience at Auburn go so well was that we had people like Maggie Bowen on our team. I really credit her with setting the women’s team on the right track. She took the underclassmen and set the standard for us. She instilled in us that you don’t do this just for you, but you do this for the 17 or 18 girls on the pool deck; you do this all for Auburn. That was just the culture, we didn’t swim for us; we swam for Auburn. We just liked to compete and we loved to race. Everything was competitive whether it was in the weight room, in practice or who could run to the car the fastest. Everything was based on competition.
Q: Looking back on that five-year period from 2002-2007 which multiple NCAA titles from both the men’s and women’s teams, do you ever think a run like that will be repeated?
A: I don’t want to say it will never be done again, because people said for a long time that a men’s and women’s team with the same head coach could not win NCAA titles in the same year and we did it. I’m sure at some point it will be done and it will be fun to watch. When I was swimming, you appreciate winning, but now as a coach you see the magnitude of what we did. When I swam all I cared about was winning and I really didn’t care about the history we were making.
Q: Heading into the 2014-15 season, what are some of things that you are looking forward to seeing from this team?
A: I think seeing how some of young talent develops. Last season, Allyx Purcell really turned some heads early on. I think our young freshman girls, especially our international girls are going to continue to get better as that become more accustomed to the American system. For Natasha (Lloyd) to join the team in January and basically throw her into the SEC Championships and to see her score at crazy meet like that was big. I think now that she’s been here for almost year, I think she can do some big things.
With this incoming freshman class, I think our juniors and seniors can really help mold them and get them acclimated to swimming in college. The upperclassman are definitely going to guide and lead our two younger classess. This team will continue to work together and feed off each other so that we can continue to get better each and every year.