This year’s Spartan boys’ swim team doesn’t have a lot of senior leadership. In fact, the team doesn’t have a lot of seniors.
As of last Friday, there was a total of one: Nick Rodda.
“He’s a great leader and has phenomenal experience in swimming,” said coach Lynn Wells, returning for her second year after guiding the Spartans to an 11th place finish at the state meet. “But he wants some company.”
While Wells is trying to persuade several of last year’s juniors to provide that company, she does have a large, experienced junior class to take up some of the slack.
One member of that junior class, Jacob Whitmore, has joined Rodda as team co-captain.
“I’d like to see everyone get personal bests and for several guys to get to state,” Whitmore said. “While we don’t have much four-year experience, we do have a lot of strong swimmers in lower classes.”
Personally, Whitmore hopes to break the school record of four minutes and 53 seconds in the 500 free. With his current best at 5:09, he said, “It’ll take a lot of work.”
A member of the 400 free relay team as well, he’d also like to dip under 50 seconds in the 100 meters.
Rodda said the Spartans, now in District two, will face several of the state’s top teams in their new classification.
“It won’t be so easy to win our league and district,” he said. “But that’ll be good for us.”
Noting that he has no time goals for his two primary individual events – the 100 fly and 200 IM – Rodda has established his personal goal “to go as far as I can and place high in those events.”
Despite the team’s lack of seniors, Wells is heartened by what she termed “a record-breaking start” at last week’s time trials.
“Many of the boys had personal bests,” she said. “That was fun.”
Three swam under 25 seconds in the 50 free: juniors Nate Rooks and Tristan Stringer, plus sophomore Jake Christensen. Four more recorded times in the 25s.
While unfamiliar with the new foes her team will face this year, she’s not concerned.
“I coach to develop this team,” she said, “not to meet competitors. I want the boys to swim fast and train hard. Then as we get closer to the league championship meet, the strategy can come.”
To that end, she’s decided to eliminate one morning practice, and reduce the workout time on long days by half an hour.
“We’ll accomplish the same yardage by concentrating on the effort to swim hard and fast,” she explained.
With the initial workouts focusing on fitness training and going fast in the freestyle, stroke work has just begun. Consequently, a number of the team members haven’t yet specialized, though some are fixtures in certain events, such as Rodda and Whitmore.
In addition, Stringer, a junior, will swim the 200 and 500 free, while fellow junior Matt Colley is slated for the 200 IM and 100 back.
Christensen and Rooks are “open books – they’re capable of several things, including the IM, backstroke, fly and free,” Wells said.
Chris Collier – one of two sophomores currently slated to swim varsity – is a fast freestyler but also versatile enough to swim the IM, distance, or even the breaststroke.
“You ask him, he’ll do it,” Wells said.
The remainder of the Gold, or varsity, workout group – Juniors Brian Burns, Alex Morris and Russell Carroll – are likely to concentrate on freestyle events, though they may also branch out. Burns will probably see some backstroke action.
While most of the Blue team, who will alternate between varsity and JV, are primarily freestylers, it’s likely that at least a few of them will add other strokes as the season progresses. The group currently consists of juniors Drew Keller, Jon Rochelle and Pete Wagner, sophomores Paul Clark, John Johnson, Nick Moga and Stuart Stringer, and freshman George Fleischfresser.
The all-freshman White team of David Anderson, James Bailey, James Houston, Jeremy James, Stephen LeMaster, Ryan Myers, Tristan Owens, Michael Stephen-McRae, Patrick Stewart and Max Wagner includes several youngsters who have never swum competitively.
“They’re here out of love for water polo,” Wells said. “Swimming better can only help polo.”
Former Spartan diver Danielle Makis is coaching the divers, all of whom are sophomores: Zander Burmer, Teague Block and Kyle Mann.
Burmer had an outstanding freshman year, capped by a seventh-place finish at the state meet.
Block is returning to competition after not diving for two years. And Mann is taking up diving for the first time, though he has a gymnastics background.
“The divers are looking good so far,” said Makis. “Kyle already has learned three dives since practice began.” That makes him eligible for JV competition, while adding another three would allow him to compete at the varsity level.
Wells is less than thrilled that Metro schools don’t compete in diving, because that deprives her divers of several chances to gain experience in pressure situations.
“Neal (White, BHS athletic director) has added two meets that have diving opportunities,” she said.
“I have a passion for divers,” she continued. “They have a different competitive environment. The board and mental approach to diving require even more discipline than the swimmers, so the coach, the team and the high school athletic director are working to pull together for them.
“Nothing’s going to stop the Bainbridge Spartans from success.”