BRISTOL, Tenn. - With this weekend's Northeast Tennessee Regional Swimming and Diving Championship looming, Science Hill coach Chris Coraggio still found some time to spin a yarn or two.
In the midst of intense training sessions and strategy meetings, Coraggio made it a point to tell his team a daily tale to prepare the Hilltoppers for what lies ahead tonight and Saturday.
"Every day I've taken one aspect of what we need to do to be successful and illustrated it with a story," Coraggio said.
For example, Coraggio told his team about Boise State's upset win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, highlighting the fact that Boise State coach Chris Petersen was willing to roll the dice for a chance at victory.
"I told them that they have to be willing to take a risk in order to succeed greatly," Coraggio said.
Succeeding greatly is already something the Hilltoppers know quite a bit about. After another strong season, Science Hill enters the Regional Meet as favorites in both the girls' and boys' competitions.
With plenty of depth and talent, the Hilltoppers will be tough to topple, especially with the lead most expect Science Hill to have following tonight's diving event.
The Hilltopper divers, led by Olivia Howard, Kaitlin Bevins, Dan Margotta and Jake Lyon, seem poised to run away with the diving competition judging by last week's performance at the Big 6's Meet.
Britt Brewster and Casey Crawford of Dobyns-Bennett may be a factor, but Science Hill's depth on the diving board will be tough to match, a fact that Coraggio is quick to attribute to hard work.
"I get miffed at comments I've heard," he said. "People say, â€˜Oh, you have diving.'
"In the sport of swimming, (diving) is an event and I don't see that as a compliment to our athletes who have worked hard when people say we're lucky to have good divers."
When the action does shift from diving to swimming, Science Hill's boys will again have a distinct advantage. Led by Kyle Owens and Justin Loudermilk, the 'Toppers will try to hold off Sullivan South, which finished runner-up to them in the Big 6's.
While the Rebels were battling illness last week, the emergence of Marshall Couch and Brad Wight will give South a little more ammunition as the Rebels try to reel in Science Hill.
"We're slowly recuperating," Sullivan South coach Brooke Robbins said. "Our overall goal is to win it."
Tennessee High and South both gave the Hilltopper girls a run for their money a week ago and it should be close again this weekend. Kristiana Feeser figures to be a force for the Rebels while Tennessee High's Brittany Estep hopes to repeat her strong performance from the Big 6's.