By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
The early returns on Byron Davis‘ first season as head coach of The Master’s University swim and dive program have been resoundingly positive.
“He’s been amazing,” said freshman Caroline Barnett, who will represent the Mustangs in three events at NAIA nationals, which begin Wednesday in Columbus, Georgia. “He’s dedicated to the team inside and outside the pool. He knows how to push us while making it enjoyable to work that hard, to push ourselves to the limit.”
How does he do that?
“Encouragement,” Barnett said. “He makes you believe the only thing holding you back is you.”
Davis, an eight-time All-American at UCLA and an Olympic trials finalist in the 100-meter butterfly, took over the first-year program last summer and has led the Mustangs to a compelling debut.
The women qualified four relays for NAIA nationals and had two swimmers qualify in three individual events each.
Barnett will swim the 50- and 100-yard freestyles and the 100 butterfly.
Freshman Journey Werner will compete in the 50 and 100 freestyles and the 100 backstroke.
Both will be in the mix to join Simone Williams, Faith Cancik, Heidi Larsen and Alisal Perez on the team’s four relays – the 200 and 400 freestyles and the 200 and 400 medleys.
Davis said he had no expectations as far as reaching nationals this soon when he took the job – in fact, he never planned on getting into collegiate coaching to begin with.
He loved the sport – “I’m a geek about swimming,” Davis says – but the responsibilities of a head coach didn’t at first interest him.
“The only way it would happen is if God put me in a position where personally disciplining young people became a burden on my heart,” Davis said, “and it would need to be close to my house.”
Davis felt that burden, and Master’s, a short drive from his home in Valencia, checked the second box.
The situation also allowed Davis to work with TMU Director of Aquatics Gabe Woodward, an Olympic bronze medalist whom Davis had trained with in Los Angeles in the mid-1990s.
The two stayed in touch over the years and talked last spring about bringing Davis to TMU.
The results speak for themselves.
“Byron’s success as one of the best swimmers in the world in his era helps him lead our team,” Woodward said. “His reputation as a man of character, as a husband and father and in his work, help make him a perfect mentor and coach for this program.”
Said Cancik, “He doesn’t take it easy on me, my teammates too. It’s not easy and that’s what I like about it. It’s not a walk in the park. We’re striving for excellence.”