The final lap: Eliason prepares for his final home meet as a Wildcat

Jan. 21, 2009

The season isn't over with for Shane Eliason. In fact, it's just getting started as far as he's concerned.

The UK swimming team still has a meet at Cincinnati next week before preparing for a month of training and championships at the Southeastern Conference Championships and the NCAA Championships.

But whether Eliason and the eight other senior swimmers want to admit it, Saturday will mark the beginning of the end in their careers at UK. For the seniors, it will be the last time they will compete in the water at the Lancaster Aquatic Center as Wildcats.

For Eliason, it will start the final chapter of what has already been a storied career at UK.

"It's bittersweet," Eliason said. "It means that the championship season is coming with SECs and NCAAs, but it also means that my college career is coming to an end. I really enjoyed it at UK, but I'm ready to take the next step as well."

Eliason has dominated the water as a Wildcat. The two-time All-American has swum his way into the record books at UK over the past several seasons. He currently sits second in the 200-backstroke, third in the 100-backstroke and sixth in the 200-individual medley on the all-time UK swimming record lists, and his 200-medley relay team from 2007 holds the school record.

Plus, he's been one of the main stalwarts in the Wildcats' recent success at the NCAAs. Just last year, Eliason helped UK place 13th in the 800-freestyle relay and 14th in the 400-medley relay securing a top-20 finish for the Blue and White for the first time in two seasons.

The two-time captain has continued that success into this season, including taking a huge part in UK's win over Missouri two weeks ago. Trailing in the final events of the meet, Eliason knew he had to win the last individual event in the 200-IM and follow it up with a victory in the final relay of the meet.

To get the job done, the team's leader took the pressure on his back and carried his team to victory.

"I'm a senior; I'm a captain," Eliason said. "You have to do it."

It wasn't the first time he had carried the Wildcats to victory in the pool, but it was the first time he had celebrated after a win, Eliason said.

"I've never felt more emotion than in that meet," he said. "It really got our season rolling. We had been down and we had a tough dual-meet schedule so in the pre-meet meeting we just said we don't want to lose again."

Eliason hopes the momentum keeps rolling into Senior Day on Saturday and on into March for the NCAA Championship. He said his goal is to get invited in the NCAAs in a couple of relays, the 100-butterfly (a personal favorite), and the 100- and 200-backstroke.

After that, Eliason said his swimming career will likely be over. He'll graduate in the spring with a degree in mathematical economics and he already has a job lined up in Little Rock, Ark., where he'll be working as an analyst for Windstream Communications.

But first things first, and that's a bittersweet meet on Saturday against in-state rival Louisville. Eliason and the other eight seniors know Saturday will be a special last meet for them, but it won't be nearly as special if they lose to their in-state rival, a team they haven't lost to since they've been at UK.

Eliason and the seniors would like nothing better than to go out on top.

"You don't want to be that first team to lose to them," Eliason said. "Being a senior, you want to go out on top and lead them the right way."