Decked in her neutral coaching shirt for Lawrence High and Free State, Pat Grzenda welcomed 32 swimmers and divers to the team's first practice on Monday at Knox Natatorium.
Grzenda, entering her sixth season as the LHS boys coach, will double as coach for the Lions and Firebirds this winter. The two teams will practice together but compete separately in meets.
"There will be no rivalry in the pool," Grzenda said.
The breakdown of the two schools was balanced with 17 swimmers for LHS and 15 for Free State.
"Those are great numbers," Grzenda said. "That's far more than we've ever had."
Grzenda unveiled her politically correct coaching shirt, white with a red and green 'L' with LHS and LFSHS stitched over the letter.
LHS won the state championship last season with a senior-dominated team. Junior Jonathan Hemphill, the school-record holder in the 200 and 500 freestyles, is back with the Lions. At state last year, he placed second in the 200 and 500 free.
Sophomore Sean Gallagher, a key contributor to the Lions' state championship, is now swimming for Free State. He placed fourth in the 500 free and ninth in the 200 free at state.
Grzenda will have two assistants -- Pat Burke and Ryan Adams. Burke, a Kansas University student from Chicago, will coach divers. Adams, a math teacher at South Junior High, is a 1992 LHS graduate and former LHS swimmer.
Here's a look at the opening of Lawrence High's other winter sports:
New coach Mark Vancuren, who guided Seminole (Okla.) High to a Class 4A state championship in March, opened varsity and junior varsity tryouts with 41 players. Thirty-four players attended the sophomore session.
"I think it's great," Vancuren said of the turnout. "The kids are excited about getting the season started."
Vancuren will make cuts after Wednesday's practice.
"It makes my job difficult," he said. "No matter what happens, someone's going away unhappy. That to me is the most depressing part."
Senior guard Todd Heitshusen, who averaged 19 points a game to lead the Lions last year, is back. Senior forward Adam Wilmes, recovering from a broken leg, should begin practicing in three to four weeks.
David Platt, beginning his second year as LHS head girls basketball coach, had a total of 41 players try out -- 17 for the varsity and junior varsity squad, and 24 for the sophomore team.
Senior Laura Rhodes, junior Somer Easterwood and sophomore Dani May return with the most experience for LHS.
Platt plans to trim the roster down to 30 to 32 after Wednesday's practice.
Jim Beltch is beginning his 29th season coaching wrestling at LHS. Thirty wrestlers, 20 below the Lions' average turnout, showed for practice.
"We're doing drills, run and condition for a week and half," Beltch said. "We won't wrestle until near Thanksgiving."
Senior Mike McAlhaney (140 pounds) is the lone state qualifier back for the Lions.
Former Tonganoxie High head coach Jeff Tummons is an assistant at LHS.eff Tummons is an assistant at LHS.
-- Steve Rottinghaus's phone message number is 832-7152. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.