The swim team this year is adjusting to many new things as they gear up for the upcoming season, including the loss of Autumn Looney, who graduated last year and currently swims for the University of Kansas. Another factor making this year different from past years is the size of the team. Many new girls signed up, making it one of the largest swim teams the school has had yet. Therefore squishing into the limited amount lanes given to the team to use for practice has been something the girls are starting to get used to.
“We are at 29 girls now..,” Head Swim Coach Marty Flentge said, “and we just adapt by using three lanes at the pool since we used to just get two at swim practice sometimes, but this year they made sure we got three.”
Looney’s absence this year has affected many girls who looked up to her in previous years and they’ve worked hard to recall what Looney taught them to pass on to the new members. A lot more came with Looney than just her skill in the sport and prepping for the upcoming meets it’s easy to see that same level of dedication and sportsmanship is with the team.
“Autumn kind of set the precedent for it so she showed them and now these girls are just taking over and hopefully it will just continue on from that,” Flentge said.
Senior Mary Kimbrough was one of the many older girls who stepped up this season to help prepare the new girls before races started.
“We have had to be mentors and teach them how to do all of the strokes and how to do everything, so we’ve had to start from the very beginning,” Kimbrough said.
The girls swimming this year all are at different levels of skill, and to many new swimmers it’s a little nerve wracking, but sophomore Sarah Frerker realizes how valuable it actually is to be on the team. She thinks they will gain a lot of knowledge diving right into it and swimming with tougher competition.
“They see all of us who have been swimming for a few years and they see what we are able to do and I think they are trying to live up to that expectation…,” Frerker said, “it will be good for them because it helps them push themselves to get better.”
Whether someone on the team is in many other activities around the school community or it is their first sport they’ve ever been a part of, the swimmers are a tight group and show support of each teammate.
“I feel like coming into swim, I knew most of the people from volleyball and through other activities,” freshman Alaina Thomas said. “So I felt like I knew most of the people, but some I didn’t know as well, I’ve definitely gotten to know.”
Many people can see the unity and enthusiasm the group shares, but Flentge shares the pride she gains from many positive letters sent to her to commend the team’s out-of-the-water achievements. A referee recalled when the Pirate swimmers cheered on a small opposing team.
“We even had some of our girls get in and race with them just so they would have more for their team. So our team actually went on the opposing team to help them out and was very rare,” Flentge said.
So heading into the 2019-2020 swim season not everything is the same, but that’s not stopping the swimmers from putting in the effort and they are finding there might actually be a strength in numbers.
“It’s definitely more chaotic than it was last year,” Kimbrough said, “but I think it helps to have more people to lean on.”