Lady Ray in it for the long haul

Senior tri-captain Joy Miller works on stroke technique drills Tuesday morning at Ray Williamson Memorial Pool. The Lady Ray swim and dive team opens the season with a dual meet against South Kitsap and Sequim on Tuesday, Sept. 9. - Ryan Schierling/Staff Photo
Senior tri-captain Joy Miller works on stroke technique drills Tuesday morning at Ray Williamson Memorial Pool. The Lady Ray swim and dive team opens the season with a dual meet against South Kitsap and Sequim on Tuesday, Sept. 9.
— image credit: Ryan Schierling/Staff Photo

The Spartan girls swim team hopes for a healthy, lengthy season.

It’s not quite 7 a.m. at the Nakata pool complex, but girls swim coach Greg Colby’s piercing whistle is already cutting the chlorinated, humid air. More than 50 swimmers are in the pool this Tuesday morning, and he wants them out of the water. Then back in the water. Then out again.

There’s a reason for all of this.

Colby is using a digital video system with delayed playback to record the swimmers’ strokes, then review them with the athletes. Girls pop out of the water in pairs, huddle next to a monitor for their critique, then hop back in and swim another 25-meters to correct any fundamental flaws in form.

On the screen, a few swimmers appear to be fighting with the water, others seem to embrace it and simply glide through.

“Put all of your mental effort into perfect technique,” Colby instructs. “We want smooth and long.”

Unhappy with last year’s spate of injuries, he put a new emphasis on proper stroke technique. Colby also enlisted the expertise of volunteer Jackie Kimpton, a physical therapist from Kitsap Physical Therapy, and more input from regular swim team assistants Carolyn Ackerley and Cindy Kraft.

“It’s time-intensive, but I think it will pay off in the long run,” Colby said of the video system. “Last year there were times we’d have half a dozen kids out of the water because of injuries.”

The team continues to work on strength and coordination with dry-land exercises, and Colby assesses the current fitness level of the team as “high.”

There is also a focus on unity -- with a team developmental retreat planned for next weekend. Lady Ray members will take on a ropes course challenge, followed by a barbecue and sleepover.

“Our team emphasis is to maintain a teachable spirit,” explained Colby. “To be open to new ideas, to being coachable.”

He expects to see big things from a number of his swimmers, especially team members who have last year’s trip to State under their swim caps.

Tri-captains Laura Gardiner, Joy Miller and Emily Silver return to the helm of Lady Ray, and their coach is optimistic about the team’s overall chances in the post-season.

“I’d like top three at Districts, and top three at State,” Colby said.

Senior Emily Silver looks to claim her fourth consecutive individual state titles in both the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events, a feat no other female swimmer has matched at that level. Silver churned out a 23.31 in the 50 last year, good enough for a state meet record, and her first-place finish in the 100 was nearly a full second ahead of runner-up Brittany Epperson of Tumwater.

Also returning from state appearances are Sarah Gleason, Brooke Hallett, Miller, Christina Russell, Jenna Santelli, Christine Swanson and diver Stephanie Whalen.

With the departure of breast-stroker Meredith Blumenthal, who took advantage of an opportunity to attend school in New Zealand, the lineup of the Spartan medley relay team is still somewhat of a question mark. Colby says he will probably fiddle with the roster until he finds a combination that works.

And he’d really like to see some of his relay alternate swimmers in individual events.

“We need them in the water, scoring points,” Colby said.

While the state meet is always the ultimate goal, Colby can’t help but smile when he looks over the schedule for the 2003 season. There are old foes Mercer Island and Newport, and 4A power Kamiak. He’s particularly excited about the mid-October dual meet with 3A state champions Bellevue and 4A state champions Rogers, which will be held at the University of Washington.

“This one is going to be a rager,” said Colby, who planned the challenging meet specifically to give the team some pool time at the location where the 2003 district championships will be held.

But that meeting is nearly two months away. So right now, it’s back to the present, and to the video screen. Back to the fundamentals that will get them through the season healthy -- back into the water, and out, and in again.

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