The city’s 2008-09 high school boys swimming season will feature two teams with distinctly different looks putting forth the same type of effort night in and night out.
The boys swimming teams at both Lawrence High and Free State High are made up of hard-working swimmers with limited experience and lots of energy. The difference between the two squads comes in the form of their size.
Lawrence High, coached by Kent McDonald, has 30 boys filling out its swimming roster. That total includes 28 swimmers and two divers. McDonald said the 30-man roster is one of the largest in LHS history, and he’s hoping that there will be strength in numbers for the Lions this season.
“We can win with numbers,” he said. “In a lot of races, it’s not always the top guys but the third- and fourth-place finishers who decide the meets.”
Returning junior Matthias Reiber, a diver who placed 17th at state last season, often was the one deciding meets for the Lions a season ago. He’ll look to improve his place at state this year and will be asked to help lead the team.
Joining Reiber will be senior co-captains Will Pendleton and Skylar Koerner. Both participated on LHS relay teams at state last season and both are being counted on to take charge again this year.
Adding a boost to the Lions’ lineup will be freshman Zach Andregg, a swimmer who competes year round and is capable of competing in any swimming event.
A good chunk of the rest of the LHS roster will be filled out by cross country crossovers, juniors Roy Wedge, distance, Thomas Wheatley, distance, Jonathon Gabler, butterfly, and Calvin Morgan, distance.
“They’re hard workers and that’s what I like,” McDonald said. “I tell them to go and they go. The strokes aren’t quite there yet, but we’ll get there.”
Overall, McDonald’s biggest hope for this season is that his team improves each week and that his full roster helps the Lions float toward the top of the standings at every meet they compete in — including state.
“We’re hoping to get some guys to state and improve our place a little bit in the league,” McDonald said. “I’m not going to say it’s a rebuilding year. We have a lot of guys who aren’t year-round swimmers but they’re hard workers and we’re going to beat some teams just because of our numbers.”
Across town at Free State, the Firebirds have a much smaller squad packed with the same kind of determined swimmers.
Free State coach Annette McDonald returns three seniors and three sophomores who contributed mightily to last year’s team. She’s hoping all six will have a similar impact this season.
Seniors Eric Gruber, Julian McCafferty and Alec Wroten all competed at state for the Firebirds last season. Gruber qualified individually in the breaststroke and McCafferty and Wroten joined him in relays.
All three have been with the program since their freshman seasons, something Annette McDonald said makes their senior season more special.
Joining that trio will be three sophomores who are learning a lot from the upperclassmen. Nolan Frank medaled at state as a freshman and Will Libeer and Tony Libeer return, as well, looking to bolster the 500 freestyle and 200 breaststroke events.
Annette McDonald says she is thrilled to see a parallel between her three seniors and her trio of sophomores.
“I think that’s going to make it a fun year and is notable because (the sophomores) started as freshman like our seniors did, and it will be fun to watch them follow in their footsteps,” she said.
That group is joined by five new sophomore divers — Jacob Demby, Aaron Lauriden, Steve Norris, Alan O’Neal and Sebastian Schoneich — as well as first-year senior Scotty Thullman and first-year sophomore Trey Johnson. Juniors Nick Norman, Eli Allen and Dalton Monk round out the FSHS roster.
Although none of the Firebirds are year-round swimmers, Annette McDonald said her team has the talent and work ethic to make this season memorable.
“Our goal is to have our relays qualify for state and to have the guys who have been with us awhile make state cut times,” she said. “Whether they’ll make noise at state, remains to be seen.”
Both Free State and Lawrence High will open the season at 3:30 today at the Free State Invitational.