published Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Mary Grace Arnold, Jeorgia Hicks among first CNC swim signees

Carson-Newman swim coach Paige McCord recently announced the inaugural group of signees for her sport at the Jefferson City, Tenn., college, and the eight recruits included two from Chattanooga schools: Mary Grace Arnold of Girls Preparatory and Jeorgia Hicks of Silverdale Baptist Academy.

Five of the others are from the Knoxville area, and the other came to Carson-Newman as a soccer player. He'll be a senior when the school begins competing next fall.

"Mary Grace has a stellar swimming background and has strong ability in the pool," McCord said of Arnold in the CNC release. "She will be crucial for us in the role of the leader out of the pool and in the IM events in it."

Of Hicks, also a Level 8 gymnast, McCord said, "She is very well-rounded and athletic. Jeorgia will be a critical asset on our team in the relays."

Arnold swims for McCallie-GPS Aquatics as well as her school team. In addition to the individual medley, she expects to do breaststroke and perhaps also the backstroke and butterfly as the Eagles program develops. She said the Knoxville recruits "are very talented. They've been to state and made All-American, so I think we're going to be very strong for a team just starting."

Arnold, who hopes for a career in a nursing specialty, also considered Lenoir-Rhyne, Milligan, Queens of Charlotte and, if she decided not to swim, Appalachian State. CNC's relative proximity to home was one plus, and she praised its "homey" campus and "very welcoming" students.

"And I love the coach. She has a lot of energy and a lot of plans," Arnold added.

Hicks also was attracted by the school's size and friendliness; she made plans to enroll for its biochemistry major and pre-med program before knowing it was adding one of her sports. She will end her American Elite Gymnastics career in March and figured she would conclude her competitive career in the water with the 2013 Chattanooga Area Swim League season, but getting athletic scholarship money was a bonus for her decision.

SBA doesn't have a swim team, but Hicks swims before school at the Hamilton YMCA.

"I'm excited. I really enjoy it," she said of getting to swim in college, noting that the fly and back are her best strokes.

Roger Dahlke, one of the McCallie-GPS Aquatics coaches, said of Arnold in a comment that could apply also to Hicks, "Having a big range of events is going to help a new program out a lot."

Specifically of Arnold he said, "This is going to be exciting for her. I think it's a great fit."

Contact Ron Bush at rbush@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.

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